The Loom of Youth
by Alec Waugh
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"Well, I mean there's Davenham now and—"

"Davenham!" came the scornful retort. "What does it matter what happens to Davenham? He's absolutely useless to the House, rotten at games and spends his whole time reading about fossils. Who cares a curse about Davenham!"

"Oh I suppose you're right, but—"

"My dear ass, of course I am right. Meredith is a simply glorious fellow. Do you remember the way he brought down Freeman in the Two Cock? Why, the House simply couldn't get on without him."

To Gordon all this conveyed very little. He had no idea who Meredith or Davenham were. The only thing he realised was that for those who wore a blue and gold ribbon laws ceased to exist. It was apparently rather advantageous to get into the Fifteen. He had not looked on athletics in that light before. Obviously his preparatory school had failed singularly to keep level with the times. He had always been told by the masters there that games were only important for training the body. But at Fernhurst they seemed the one thing that mattered. To the athlete all things are forgiven. There was clearly a lot to learn.

"To him who desireth much, much is given; and to him who desireth little, little is given; but to neither according to the letter of his desire."


The Loom of Youth



First published in Great Britain 1917 Reprinted July 1917, August 1917, September 1917 (twice) November 1917, January 1918, March 1918, October 1918, 1919, 1921, 1930, 1933, 1945 Cassell's Pocket Library, 1928 Penguin Abridged Edition, 1942 New edition reset and revised 1955 Reprinted 1972

This edition published 1984 by Methuen London Ltd 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE

Copyright (c) Alec Waugh 1917 ISBN 0 413 54970 4 (hardback) ISBN 0 413 54980 1 (paperback)

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd Bungay, Suffolk

This book is available in both a hardcover and paperback edition. The paperback is solid subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the Publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

* * * * *

Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected in text. There is one place where a subscript is used and is designated by an underscore and curly brackets thus: H_{2}O.

* * * * *

Dedicatory Letter to Arthur Waugh

My Dear Father,

This book, which I am bringing you, is a very small return for all you have given me. In every mood, in every phase of my shifting pilgrimage, I have found you ever the same—loving, sympathetic, wise. You have been with me in my success, and in my happiness, in my failures and in my disappointments, in the hours when I have followed wandering fires. There has never yet come to me a moment when I did not know that I had but to stretch out my hand to find you at my side. In return for so much, this first book of mine is a very small offering.

But yet I bring it to you, simply because it is my first. For whatever altars I may have raised by the wayside, whatever ephemeral loyalties may have swayed me, my one real lodestar has always been your love, and sympathy, and guidance. And as in life it has always been to you first that I have brought my troubles, my aims, my hopes, so in the world of ideas it is to you that I would bring this, the first-born of my dreams.

Accept it. For it carries with it the very real and very deep love of a most grateful son.



Preface page 9


I Groping 15

II Finding his Feet 21

III The New Philosophy 31

IV New Faces 44

V Emerging 52

VI Clarke 62

VII When One is in Rome 69


I Quantum Mutatus 79

II Healthy Philistinism 102

III Tin Gods 119

IV Through a Glass Darkly 130


I Common Room Faces 134

II Carnival 169

III Broadening Outlook 179

IV Thirds 185

V Dual Personality 196

VI The Games Committee 200

VII Rebellion 208

VIII The Dawning of many Dreams 213


I The Twilight of the Gods 226

II Setting Stars 239

III Romance 242

IV The Dawn of Nothing 249

V The Things that Seem 259

VI The Tapestry Completed 277


Books have their fates and this one's has been curious. I wrote it between January and March 1916, when I was seventeen and a half years old and in camp at Berkhamsted with the Inns of Court O.T.C. I loathed it there, everything about it, the impersonal military machine, the monotonous routine of drills and musketry, the endless foot-slogging, the perpetual petty fault-finding. I kept comparing my present life with that which I had been leading ten, eighteen, thirty months ago at Sherborne, as a schoolboy.

My four years there had been very happy. I was the kind of a boy who gets the most out of a public school. I loved cricket and football and was reasonably good at them. I was in the first XV and my last summer headed the batting averages. My father had lit in me a love of poetry and an interest in history and the classics. More often than not I went into a class-room looking forward to the hour that lay ahead. I enjoyed the whole competitive drama of school life—the cups and caps and form promotions. As I marched as a cadet over Ashridge Park I remembered that a year ago I had been bicycling down to the football field for a punt about on Upper. As I listened to a lecture on the establishment of an infantry brigade, I thought of the sixth form sitting under that fine scholar and Wordsworthian Nowell Smith to a discussion of Victorian poetry. In the evenings on my way to night operations, passing Berkhamsted School and looking at the lighted windows, I would think, "At Sherborne now they are sitting round the games study fire waiting for the bell to ring for hall". Day by day, hour by hour, I pictured myself back at school.

I was in a nostalgic mood, but I was also in a rebellious mood. Intensely though I had enjoyed my four years at Sherborne, I had been in constant conflict with authority. That conflict, so it seemed to me, had been in the main caused and determined by authority's inability or refusal to recognise the true nature of school life. The Public School system was venerated as a pillar of the British Empire and out of that veneration had grown a myth of the ideal Public School boy—Kipling's Brushwood Boy. In no sense had I incarnated such a myth and it had been responsible, I felt, for half my troubles. I wanted to expose it. Those moods of nostalgia and rebellion fused finally in an imperious need to relive my school days on paper, to put it all down, term by term, exactly as it had been, to explain, interpret, justify my point of view.

I wrote the book in six and a half weeks, getting up at half past four every morning and returning to my manuscript at night after the day's parades. I posted it, section by section, to my father who corrected the spelling and punctuation, interjected an occasional phrase and sent it to be typed. I never revised it. As the manuscript shows, it was printed as it was written, paragraph by paragraph.

The book after two or three refusals was accepted by Grant Richards and published in July 1917 in the same week that I was posted as a machine-gun second-lieutenant to the B.E.F. in France. It could not have come out under luckier auspices. It had an immediate news value. There was a boom in soldier poets. Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Nichols, W.J. Turner had recently made their debuts. Here was a soldier novelist, the first and in his teens. As always in war-time there was a demand for books and there was that summer a dearth of novels. A spirit of challenge and criticism was in the air. The war after three years was still "bogged down" and public opinion attributed allied failings in the field to mismanagement in high places. The rebelliousness of The Loom of Youth was in tune with the temper of the hour. Finally I had the immense advantage of being the son of Arthur Waugh. My father as a critic and a publisher was one of the most loved and respected figures in the world of letters. Many were anxious to give his son a chance.

The book had a flattering reception. Nothing of any particular interest was being published at the moment and reviewers welcomed it. J.C. Squire, Gerald Gould, Ralph Straus, C.K. Scott-Moncrieff, E.B. Osborn, all made it their book of the week. Nor was it noticed only in the book sections. Richards had suggested that Thomas Seccombe who was then history professor at Sandhurst and had introduced the book to him, should write a preface. That preface discussed the Public School system in the light of contemporary events. The system, Seccombe wrote, "has fairly helped, you may say, to get us out of the mess of August 1914. Yes, but it contributed heavily to get us into it." The preface encouraged and helped a journalist to use the book as the text for a general article. Within a month it had received twenty-four columns of reviews and was in its third impression. Grant Richards told my father that with any luck he would sell five thousand copies.

That was at the end of the August. Three weeks later the schools went back and half the housemasters in the country found their desks littered with letters from anxious parents demanding an assurance that their Bobbie was not subject to the temptations described in this alarming book. In self-defence the schoolmasters hit back and by mid-November the book had become the centre of violent controversy. In many schools the book was banned and several boys were caned for reading it. Canon Edward Lyttleton, the ex-headmaster of Eton, wrote a ten-page article in The Contemporary—then an influential monthly—explaining how biased and partial a picture the school gave. The Spectator ran for ten weeks and The Nation for six a correspondence filling three or four pages an issue in which schoolmaster after schoolmaster asserted that whatever might be true of "Fernhurst", at his school it was all very different. Grant Richards adeptly fanned the conflagration. He had initiated that summer an original style of advertising. He inserted each week in the Times Literary Supplement a half column of gossip about his books and authors. It was set in small heavy black type, and caught the eye. Richards was a good writer and it was very readable. He was, I think, the first publisher to exploit the publicity value of unfavourable comment. Richard Hughes, at that time in the sixth form at Charterhouse, wrote, as his weekly essay, an attack on The Loom of Youth. His form master, Dames Longworth, a fine old Tory, sent it up to The Spectator, as a counterblast to such "pernicious stuff". Next week Grant Richards quoted him. Mr Dames Longworth called the book "pernicious stuff", but Clement Shorter prophesied in The Sphere that it would prove "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Public School system". By Christmas the book was a best seller.

A modern reader will wonder what all this fuss and indignation was about. Two points are to be remembered. First that before World War I Britain's imperial destiny was never questioned, and the Public School system as a bulwark of Empire was held sacrosanct. Second that no book before The Loom of Youth had accepted as part of the fabric of School life the inevitable emotional consequences of a monastic herding together for eight months of the year of thirteen year old children and eighteen year old adolescents. On that issue such a complete conspiracy of silence had been maintained that when fathers were asked by their wives, and schoolmasters by parents who had not themselves been at public schools whether "such things really could take place", the only defence was a grudging admission, "Perhaps in a bad house, in a bad school, in a bad time."

I followed the controversy with mixed feelings. I was delighted of course at the book's success. At the same time I was distressed at being accused of having libelled the school where I had been so happy, to which I was so devoted, and to so many of whose masters—in particular its headmaster—I owed so much.

Well, that is all a long long time ago, and usually nothing is more dead and dated than the book which once caused controversy. Yet The Loom of Youth has continued to sell steadily from one year to the next; in 1928 it was included in Cassell's Pocket Library; in 1942 it was issued as a Penguin and now that the original plates are wearing out, Mr Martin Secker and the directors of The Richards Press feel that it is worth their while to reset the type and give the book another lease of life. I hope that their confidence will be justified. If it is, it will be for reasons very different from those which made The Loom of Youth a best seller in 1917. The modern reader will find nothing here to shock or startle him. Several years ago a friend was reading the book in my company. "When do I reach the scene?" he asked. I looked over his shoulder. "You've passed it, ten pages back," I told him. At the same time the book is not presented as a "period piece". Though England to-day is a different country, socially and economically, from what it was in 1911 when I went to Sherborne, I do not think that in essentials the life of the Public School boy has greatly changed. Most schools are larger than they were, but they have retained the same traditions and ideals; there is the same atmosphere of rivalry and competing loyalties; youth has the same basic problems, is fired by the same ambitions, beset by the same doubts. And if the modern reader, after turning a page or two finds his attention held and wants to go on reading, it will mean that this book has become at last what in fact it was always meant to be—a realistic but romantic story of healthy adolescence set against the background of an average English Public School.

April, 1954.

Alec Waugh


"While I lived I sought no wings, Schemed no heaven, planned no hell; But, content with little things, Made an earth and it was well."



There comes some time an end to all things, to the good and to the bad. And at last Gordon Caruthers' first day at school, which had so combined excitement and depression as to make it unforgettable, ended also. Seldom had he felt such a supreme happiness as when he stepped out at Fernhurst station, and between his father and mother walked up the broad, white road that led past the Eversham Hotel to the great grey Abbey, that watches as a sentinel over the dreamy Wessex town. There are few schools in England more surrounded with the glamour of mediaeval days than Fernhurst. Founded in the eighth century by a Saxon saint, it was the abode of monks till the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Then after a short interregnum Edward VI endowed it and restored the old curriculum. The buildings are unchanged. It is true that there have sprung up new class-rooms round the court, and that opposite the cloisters a huge yellow block of buildings has been erected which provides workshops and laboratories, but the Abbey and the School House studies stand as they stood seven hundred years ago. To a boy of any imagination, such a place could not but waken a wonderful sense of the beautiful. And Gordon gazing from the school gateway across to the grey ivy-clad studies was taken for a few moments clean outside himself. The next few hours only served to deepen this wonder and admiration. For Fernhurst is prodigal of associations. The School House dining-hall is a magnificent oak-panelled room, where generations of men have cut their names; and above the ledge on which repose the silver challenge cups the house has won, is a large statue of King Edward VI looking down on the row of tables. When he first entered the hall, Gordon pitied those in other houses immensely. It seemed to him that though in "the outhouses"—as they were called at Fernhurst—the eugenic machinery might be more up to date, and the method of lighting and heating far more satisfactory, yet it could not be the same there as in the School House; and he never quite freed himself of the illusion that, if the truth were known, every outhouse boy rather regretted that he had not chosen otherwise. For indeed the bloods of other houses are very often found sitting over the fire in the School House games study.

Until about six o'clock Gordon could not have been happier, his future seemed so full of possibilities. But when his father and mother left him to catch the afternoon train back to town, and the evening train brought with it a swarm of boys in the most wonderful ties and socks, and all so engrossed in their own affairs, and so indifferent to his, Gordon began to feel very lonely. Supper was not till nine and he had three hours to put in. Very disconsolately he wandered round the green slopes above the town where was the town football ground and where in the summer term those members of the Fifteen who despised cricket would enjoy their quiet pipe and long for the rains of November. But that walk did not take long, especially as he did not dare to go out of the sight of the Abbey for fear of getting lost. When he returned to the House the court was loud with shouts and laughter. Everyone had something to do. There was the luggage to fetch from the day-room. The town porter, known generally as Slimy Tim, was waiting to be tipped. Health certificates had to be produced. There was a sporting chance of finding in Merriman's second-hand bookshop—out of bounds during term-time—an English version of Vergil and Xenophon. There were a hundred things to do for everyone except Gordon. There were several other new boys, doubtless, to be found among this unending stream of bowler hats. But he saw no way of discovering them. He did, it is true, make one attempt. Very bravely he walked up to a rather bored individual who was leaning against the door that led into the studies and asked him if he was a new boy. His reception was not friendly. The person in question was Sandham of the Lower Sixth, who had been made a house prefect and was very conscious of it, and who was also well aware of the fact that he was not very tall. His friends called him "The Cockroach"; and Gordon was told politely to go elsewhere. He did not, however, go where he was told, but sauntered sadly down to the matron's room, only to find it full of people all with some complaint. Some had lost their keys, others were furious that their people should have been charged for biscuits and sultana cake that they had never had, but the greater part were wanting to know why the old bathroom had been turned into a study for the Chief's secretary, while they had been given in exchange a lot of small zinc hip-baths. To the smaller members of the House this change was rather popular. On the days when there were only four baths among eighty, it did not matter very much to them how large they were, if they were always occupied by the bloods, while however small the new baths might be, there were sufficient to go round. The bloods did not look on the matter in this light.

Gordon walked from room to room utterly miserable. Nobody took the slightest notice of him, only one person asked his name, and that was a small person of one term's standing who wanted to show that he was a power in the land. At last, however, the old cracked bell rang out for supper, and very thankfully he took his place among the new boys at the bottom of the day-room table. Evening prayers in the School House had once been rather a festive occasion, and a hymn chosen by the head of the House was sung every night. It had been the custom to choose a hymn with some topical allusion. For instance, on the evening when the House tutor had given a hundred lines to every member of the day-room for disturbing a masters' meeting, by playing cricket next door, they chose Fierce raged the Tempest o'er the Deep; and on one occasion when an unpopular prefect had been unexpectedly expelled the House was soothed with the strains of Peace, Perfect Peace. But those days were over. A new headmaster had come with an ear for music, and the riot of melody that surged from the V. A table seemed to him not only blasphemous, but also inartistic. And so hymn-singing stopped, and only a few prayers were read instead.

On this particular evening the Chief was in high spirits. It was characteristic of his indomitable kindliness and optimism that, though he ended every term in a state of exhaustion, having strained his energy and endurance to the breaking-point, he invariably began the new term in a spirit of geniality and hope. It was not till years later that Gordon came to understand the depth of unselfish idealism that burned behind the quiet modesty of the Chief; but even at first sight the least impressionable boy was conscious of being under the influence of an unusual personality. There was nothing of the theatrical pedagogue about him; he surrounded himself with no trappings of a proud authority. His voice was gentle and persuasive; his smile as winning almost as a child's. The little speech with which he welcomed the House back, and a passing allusion, half humorous, half appealing, to the changes in the bath-rooms were perhaps too homely to impress the imagination of the average inhuman boy. But they were the sincere expression of the man—an idealist, with an unfailing faith in human nature, founded in an even deeper faith in Christianity.

When he had gone, Gordon ventured to look round at the sea of faces. On a raised dais was the Sixth Form table. In the middle, haughty, self-conscious, with sleepy-looking but watchful eyes, sat the captain of the House, Lovelace major, in many ways the finest athlete Fernhurst ever produced, who had already got his County cap and played "Rugger" for Richmond. Gordon had seen him bat at Lord's for the Public Schools v. M.C.C., and before he had come to Fernhurst, Lovelace had been the hero of his imagination; ambition could hardly attain a higher pedestal.

There were about twelve in all at the Sixth Form table, of whom the majority were prefects; and no one could leave the hall till one of them went out. After a few minutes' conversation, in which no one ate anything, although plates of hot soup were busily provided, someone got up and went out. Immediately there was a rush towards the door, and Gordon was borne down the long winding passage to the foot of the stairs that led to the dormitories. Here, however, for some reason, everyone stopped and began to talk at the top of their voices. Gordon saw no reason for the delay, but thought it better to follow the throng, and waited. As a matter of fact, the last train up from town had just come in. There are some who always demand the last ounce of flesh; there are always those who return by the last possible train, although it stops at every station on the way. Suddenly, however, the House tutor shouted from the top of the stairs, "Lights out in the upper dormitories by nine-thirty," and the procession moved upstairs.

The upper dormitories in the School House were, like most other school dormitories, a dismal spectacle. There was a long passage running down from the House tutor's room, and on the left were doors leading into long, bare rooms, with the usual red-quilted beds and the usual wash-hand basins. On the right-hand side was the bathroom. The upper dormitories were occupied by the smaller boys of the House. Once a prefect had been put in charge over each room, but the system did not work very well, and soon came to an abrupt end, so that there was only the House tutor to keep them in order till the prefects went to bed in the lower dormitories an hour later; and then any sound was promptly dealt with. Gordon had been placed in the largest room, which was known as "the nursery." It contained ten beds, and only four of its inhabitants were of more than one term's standing. Among other less enviable claims to fame, it had the reputation of being the finest football-playing dormitory, and every night its members would race up from supper to play their game before the House tutor came to put out lights at nine-fifteen. The new boys took it in turns to keep "cave," and it must be owned that for the first few weeks the sentinel rather preferred the role of onlooker to that of player, and found it hard to sympathise with those who were continually flinging abuse at the huge football crowds at Stamford Bridge. This night there was, of course, hardly any ragging. There was so much to talk about, and some faint interest was even taken in the new boys, for two very important-looking young people, Turner and Roberts, swaggered into the dormitories "just to have a squint at the new kids," but after a casual inspection Turner said in a lordly manner, "Good lord! what a crew," and the pair sought better things elsewhere. Turner and Roberts were very insignificant people during the daytime: they were little use at games, and even a year's spasmodic cribbing had only managed to secure them a promotion from the Second Form to the Third. But when the evening came they were indeed great men, and ruled over a small dormitory that contained, besides themselves, only four new boys who looked up to them as gods and hung on their every word.

But very soon the wanderings of these two gentlemen ceased, and at the sound of the House tutor's tread down the passage they fled very ingloriously to their own abode. Mr Parkinson, the House tutor, was one of the most popular masters in the school. He had only just missed his blue at Oxford, and since he had gone down had devoted all his energies to training on the junior members of the House at football and cricket. He was in rather a hurry this particular evening, as he had to make out the list of studies, but he shook hands with everyone, and asked all the new boys their names before turning out the lights, with instructions not to kick up too much row.

At last Gordon was at rest. For ten hours at least he would not have to worry about anything. He lay back in bed contentedly and listened to the conversation. As was natural, the talk was at first only about the holidays, but it soon drifted round to school politics, and one Bradford began to hold forth on the composition of the Fifteen, as if he was the captain's bosom friend. To Gordon, of course, most of the names mentioned signified nothing. He gathered that the great Lovelace was going to be captain and was sure to have rows with Buller the games master, but besides this he picked up very little. Gradually the conversation turned on individuals, and especially on a certain Meredith, who was apparently a double-first, with a reputation that did not end on the cricket pitch.

"You know I think Meredith goes a bit too far at times," came a voice from the middle of the room.

Bradford rose at once. "What the hell do you mean? Meredith go too far? Why, he is a splendid wicket-keeper, and far and away the finest half-back in the school. You must allow a good deal to a blood like him."

"Oh, I know he is a magnificent athlete and all that, but don't you think he does rather a lot of harm in the House?"

"Harm? Who to?"

"Well, I mean there's Davenham now and——"

"Davenham!" came the scornful retort. "What does it matter what happens to Davenham? He's absolutely useless to the House, rotten at games and spends his whole time reading about fossils. Who cares a curse about Davenham!"

"Oh, I suppose you are right, but——"

"My dear ass, of course I am right. Meredith is a simply glorious fellow. Do you remember the way he brought down Freeman in the Two Cock? Why, the House simply couldn't get on without him."

To Gordon all this conveyed very little. He had no idea who Meredith or Davenham were. The only thing he realised was that for those who wore a blue and gold ribbon laws ceased to exist. It was apparently rather advantageous to get into the Fifteen. He had not looked on athletics in that light before. Obviously his preparatory school had failed singularly to keep level with the times. He had always been told by the masters there that games were only important for training the body. But at Fernhurst they seemed the one thing that mattered. To the athlete all things are forgiven. There was clearly a lot to learn.


The new boy's first week at a Public School is probably the most wretched he will ever pass in his life. It is not that he is bullied. Boots are not shied at him when he says his prayers; he is not tossed in a blanket; it is merely that he is utterly lonely, is in constant fear of making mistakes, is never certain of what may happen next, and so makes for himself troubles that do not exist. And when Gordon wrote home to his people at the end of his second day it did not need a very clever mother to read between the lines and see that her son was hopelessly miserable.

His worries began at once. On the first day of term discipline is, of course, very slack. There is only an hour's work, which is, for the most part, spent in finding out what books are needed. There is no preparation set for the evening, breakfast is at eight-thirty instead of seven-forty-five, and it does not matter how late anyone comes in. And so when, at eight o'clock, the School House butler, who had watched many generations pass by with the same imperturbable smile, walked down the dormitories ringing a horribly cracked bell, no one paid any attention. There was tons of time. Ordinarily no one ever got up till the quarter, and to-day—well, twenty past would be ample. A voice from the end of the room muttered drowsily: "Damn that bell." But besides that nothing happened. Gordon was fearfully perplexed. He had expected everyone to leap out of bed, seize a towel and rush to the shower-bath, but no one had moved. Could it be possible that they were still asleep and had not heard the bell? It seemed incredible, but it might be so. And if it were, ought he to wake them up? It seemed rather cheek for a new boy, but then, supposing the whole dormitory were late.

Greatly daring, he stretched out a hand and touched the arm of the boy sleeping next him. The individual in question merely turned over subconsciously and said something fierce. Gordon relapsed into a state of terror. During the next quarter of an hour he passed through all the miseries of an unknown fear. Only twenty-four hours ago he had been at breakfast with his father and mother in his home at Hampstead. It seemed years ago. Here he was face to face with horrible, unexplained things. The suspense grew unbearable. He was sure he heard someone moving next door; the others were getting up; he would be late his first day. What a start! But just as he was visioning the most dire punishments, James, an insignificant person of one term's standing, slowly pushed back the bed-clothes, picked up a towel and lethargically moved towards the door. Gordon jumped up, happy at last, and made for the huge new bathroom. It had an iron floor, sloped so as to allow water to drain off easily, and contained six small baths and showers fixed above them. The room was practically empty. He was glad of this; he did not want to have a shower with a lot of people looking on. The water was very cold—he was used to a tepid bath; but by the time he had begun to dry, the place was full of boys all shouting at once. No one is more loud or insistent than he who has just ceased to be labelled new. He likes everyone to know how important he is, how free and how unfettered by rules, and the best way to this end is to shout and curse everything. The room was filled with shouts of "Good God! are we expected to get clean in babies' tubs?" "What a fool the Chief is." "Oh, damn your eyes, that's my towel." "No, there's yours, you blasted idiot." Gordon was immensely shocked at the language. He had come from a preparatory school run by a master with strong views on swearing, and for that matter on everything. He had been kept thoroughly in order. He got out of the bathroom as quickly as possible and made for his dormitory. It did not take long to dress. There was indeed very little time, and as the half-hour struck, he was carried down in the throng to the dining-hall.

Breakfast is always rather a scramble, and nowhere more so than at a Public School. The usual Fernhurst breakfast lasted about ten minutes. Hardly anyone spoke, only the ring of forks on plates was heard and an occasional shout of "Tea" from the Sixth Form table. They alone could shout at meals, the others had to catch the servant's eye. To-day, however, there was a good deal of conversation. Those who had come by the last train had not seen all their friends the night before. There was much shaking of hands. In the middle a loud voice from the head of the Sixth Form table shouted out: "Silence! I want to see all new boys in my study at nine o'clock." It was Clarke, the head of the House, who spoke. He was tall, with pince-nez, one of those brilliant scholars who are too brilliant to get scholarships. He was a fanatic in many ways, a militarist essentially, a firebrand always. There was bound to be trouble during his reign. He could never let anything alone. He was a great fighter.

Gordon looked up with immense awe. Clarke looked so powerful, so tremendous; even Lovelace himself was not much greater. He wondered vaguely what would be said to them.

And indeed Clarke was even more imposing in his own study. The back of the room sloped down into a low alcove in which hung strange Egyptian curtains. The walls were decorated with a few Pre-Raphaelite photogravures. Behind the door was a pile of cases. Clarke sat with his back to the window.

"Now you are all quite new to school life," he began, "entirely ignorant of its perils and dangers, and you are now making the only beginning you can ever make. You start with clean, fresh reputations. I don't know how long you will remain so, but you must remember that you are members of the finest house in Fernhurst. Last year we had the two finest athletes, Wincheston and Lovelace, who played cricket for Leicestershire, and is now captain of the House. We had also the two finest scholars, Scott and Pembroke, both of whom won scholarships. Now we can't all be county cricketers, we can't all win scholarships, but we can all work to one end with an unfailing energy. You will find prefects here who will beat you if you play the ass. Well, I don't mind ragging much and it is no disgrace to be caned for that. But it is a disgrace to be beaten for slacking either at games or work. It shows that you are an unworthy member of the House. Now I want all of you to try. Some of you will perhaps never rise above playing on House games, or get higher than the Upper Fifth. But if you can manage to set an example of keenness you will have proved yourselves worthy of the School House, which is beyond doubt the House at Fernhurst. That's all I have got to say."

That scene was in many ways the most vivid in Gordon's career. From that moment he felt that he was no longer an individual, but a member of a great community. And afterwards when old boys would run down Clarke, and say how he had stirred up faction and rebellion, Gordon kept silent; he knew that whatever mistakes the head of the House might have made, he had the welfare of the House at heart and loved it with a blind, unreasoning love that was completely misunderstood.

It is inevitable that a new boy's first few days should be largely taken up in making mistakes, and though it is easy to laugh about them afterwards, at the time they are very real miseries. At Fernhurst, things are not made easy for the new boy. Gordon found himself placed in the Upper Fourth, under Fleming, a benevolent despot who was a master of sarcasm and was so delighted at making a brilliant attack on some stammering idiot that he quite forgot to punish him. "Young man, young man," he would say, "people who forget their books are a confounded nuisance, and I don't want confounded nuisances with me." Gordon got on with him very well on the whole, as he had a sense of humour and always laughed at his master's jokes. But he only did Latin and English in the Fourth room, for the whole school was split up into sets, regardless of forms, for sharing such less arduous labours as science, maths, French and Greek. So that Gordon found himself suddenly appointed to Mr Williams' Greek set No. V. with no idea of where to go. After much wandering, he eventually found the Sixth Form room. He entered; someone outside had told him to go in there. A long row of giants in stick-up collars confronted him. The Chief sat on a chair reading a lecture on the Maccabees. All eyes seemed turned on him.

"Please, sir," he quavered out in trembling tones, "is this Mr Williams' Greek set, middle school No. V?"

There was a roar of laughter. Gordon fled. After about five more minutes' ineffectual searching he ran into a certain Robertson in the cloisters. Now Robertson played back for the Fifteen.

"I say, are you one of the new boys for Williams' set?"


"Well, look here, he's setting us a paper, and I don't know much about it, and I rather want to delay matters. So look here, hide yourself for a few minutes. I am just going to find Meredith and have a chat."

For ten minutes Gordon wandered disconsolately about the courts. When at last Robertson returned with his protege the hour was well advanced, and there would be no need for Robertson to have to waste his preparation doing an imposition.

On another occasion one of the elder members of his form told him to go to "Bogus" for French. Now "Bogus" was short for the Bogus officer, and was the unkind appellation of one Rogers. Tall, ascetic and superior, with the air of a great philosopher, he had, like Richard Feverel's uncle, Adrian Harley, "attained that felicitous point of wisdom from which one sees all mankind to be fools." He was one of the happy few who are really content; for in the corps as Officer Commanding he could indulge continuously in his favourite pastime of hearing his own voice, and as a clerk in orders the pulpit presented admirable opportunities for long talks that brooked no interruptions. In the common room his prolix anecdotes were not encouraged. But in the pulpit there was no gainsaying him. His dual personality embodied the spirit of "the Church Militant," a situation the humour of which the School did not fail to grasp. But of all this Gordon, of course, knew nothing. After a long search for this eminent divine, in perfect innocence he went up to a master he saw crossing the courts.

"Please, sir, can you tell me where Mr Bogus' class-room is?" He did not understand till weeks afterwards why the master took such a long time to answer, and seemed so hard put to it not to laugh.

The story provided amusement in the common room for many days. Rogers was not popular.

It was in this atmosphere of utter loneliness and inability to do anything right that Gordon's first week passed. Of the other new boys none of them seemed to him very much in his line. There was Foster, good-looking and attractive, but plausible and insincere. There was Rudd, a scholar who had passed into the Fifth, spectacled, of sallow appearance, and with a strange way of walking. Collins was not so bad, but his mind ran on nothing but football and billiard championships. The rest were nonentities, the set who drift through their six years, making no mark, hurting no one, doing little good. Finally they pass out into the world to swell the rout of civilised barbarians whom it "hurts to think" and who write to the papers, talk a lot about nothing and then die and are forgotten. The Public School system turns out many of these. For it loves mediocrity, it likes to be accepted unquestioningly as was the Old Testament. But times change. The Old Testament and the Public School system are now both of them in the melting-pot of criticism.

For the most part Gordon kept to himself. No one took any notice of him, for he did nothing worthy of notice. He had rather looked forward to his first game of football, for he had been quite a decent half-back at his preparatory school. He might perhaps do something brilliant. But for his first two days he wasn't allowed even to play a game. With the other new boys he shivered in the autumn wind while Meredith, who rather surprisingly seemed quite an ordinary sort of person, instructed them in how to pack down. They were then told to watch the Upper game and see how football should be played. It was here that Gordon first saw Buller, the games master. He was indeed a splendid person. He wore a double-breasted coat, that on anyone else would have looked ridiculous, and even so was strikingly original. He had the strong face of one who had fought every inch of his way. It was a great sight to see "the Bull," as he was called, take a game; he rushed up and down the field cursing and swearing. His voice thundered over the ground. It was the first game after the summer holidays, and everyone felt rather flabby. At half-time the great man burst out: "I have played football for twenty-five years, I coached Oxford teams and Gloucestershire teams, led an English scrum, and for fifteen years I have taught footer here, but never saw I such a display! Shirking, the whole lot of you! Get your shoulders down and shove. Never saw anything like it. Awful!" The Bull said this to every team at least three times every season, but he was every bit as generous with his praise as with his blame when things went well, and he was a great man, a personality. Even a desultory Pick-Up woke into excitement when the shrill, piping voice of a full-back came in with, "'The Bull's' coming." There was only one man in Fernhurst who was not afraid of him, and that was Lovelace, who was indeed afraid of nothing, and who towered over his contemporaries by the splendour of his athletic achievements, and the strength of an all-mastering personality.

On the next day Gordon had to watch another Upper game. This time "the Bull" was more or less quiet. Lovelace was at the top of his form, and Meredith twice cut through brilliantly and scored between the posts. Then life seemed to Buller very good. After the game he rolled up to his house perfectly satisfied, whistling to himself. It was not until the Saturday that Gordon actually played in a game. He was originally performing on the Pick-Up; but after a few minutes he was fetched to fill a gap in a House game. He was shoved into the scrum, was perfectly useless, and spent his whole time trying to escape notice. Only once he got really near the ball. Just before half-time the ball was rolling slowly towards him, the opposing full-back had failed to reach touch. Gordon, steadying himself as at soccer, took a tremendous kick at the ball, which screwed off his foot, and landed in the hands of the outside three-quarter, who easily outpaced the defence and scored.

"You bloody little fool," said someone. "For God's sake, no soccer tricks here."

Gordon did not attempt to repeat the performance. He was supremely wretched, and merely longed for the day to end. No one understood him, or even wanted to. His home became a very heaven to him during these days.

But sooner or later pain grows into a custom. The agonies of Prometheus and Ixion must after a little while have ceased to cause anything more than boredom. As soon as the mind is accustomed to what is before it, there is an end of grief. It is the series of unexpected blows that hurts. And so, Gordon after his first week found that life was not so hard after all. He knew where his various class-rooms were: his time-table was complete; he had slipped into the routine, and found that there was a good deal of merriment for anyone with a sense of humour.

Fleming was a constant source of amusement. One day Mansell, a member of the School House Fifteen, had forgotten his book. The usual penalty for forgetting a book was a hundred lines. Mansell had been posted on the Lower ground. If he did well, he might be tried for the Second Fifteen. The book must be got at all costs.

"Please, sir, may I go and get a handkerchief?"

"Yes, young man, and hurry up about it."

After five minutes Mansell returns, blowing his nose vigorously in his silk handkerchief of many colours, for Mansell is by way of being a nut. The book is under his coat. He sits down.

Fleming fixes him with a stony glare—a long pause.

"Mansell, take that book from under your coat."

Reluctantly the miscreant does so. The dream of a Second's cap vanishes.


The roar of laughter was sufficient to make Fleming forget all about impositions. But Mansell did not perform very well on the Lower ground, and Gordon overheard Lovelace remarking to Meredith that Mansell was really rather a come-down for a School House cap.

But, whatever his football performances, Mansell was a continual source of laughter. He and Gordon were in the same Greek set and studied under Mr Claremont, a dry humorist, who had adopted schoolmastering for want of something better to do, had apparently regretted it afterwards, and developed into a cynic.

Mansell was easily the most popular man and the worst scholar in the set, in which there were nineteen in all. Each week Claremont read out the order. Gordon was usually about half-way up. Mansell fluctuated; one week he "bagged" the translation Clarke was using for scholarship work. He was second that week. But Clarke discovered the theft. There was a fall. Many names were read in the weekly order, but Mansell's was not of them. At last Claremont reached him.

"Greek Prose, Mansell 19th; Greek Translation, Mansell 19th; Combined Order, Mansell 19th." A roar of laughter. "Well, Mansell, I don't think that a titter from your companions is a sufficient reward for a week's bad work."

The immediate result of this was that Mansell, realising that without some assistance, printed or otherwise, his chances of a good report were small, got leave from Clarke to fetch Gordon from the day-room to his study in hall to prepare the work together. Gordon at once thought himself a tremendous blood. There were advantages, after all, in being moderately clever.

About this time another incident helped to bring Gordon a little more before the public eye. There had been a match in the afternoon v. Milton A. Lovelace, as happens to all athletes at times, had an off day. He missed an easy drop, fumbled two passes, and when the School were leading by one point just before time, failed to collar his man, and Milton A won by two points. "The Bull" raged furiously. Lovelace took hall that night. He sat at the top of the table in the day-room and gazed about, seeking someone on whom to vent his wrath. There was a dead silence. Gordon was writing hard at a Latin prose. He looked up for a second while thinking of a word.

"Caruthers, are you working?" Lovelace snapped out.


"You liar, you were looking out of the window, weren't you?"

"Yes, but——"

"I'll teach you to tell lies to me. Come and see me at nine o'clock."

Very miserably Gordon continued his work. After about a quarter of an hour:

"Caruthers, will you take six, or a hundred lines?"

Gordon thought it was not the thing to take lines:


"Will you have it now or afterwards?"


"Hunter, go and get a cane from my study."

Trembling with fear, Gordon heard Hunter's feet ring down the stone passage, saw him running across to the studies by the old wall. There was silence again; then the sound of feet; Hunter returned.

"Come out here, Caruthers."

It hurt tremendously; he went back wishing he had taken the hundred lines. But the others thought it amazingly brave of him. Lovelace minor, handsome, debonair, a swashbuckler in the teeth of authority, came up afterwards and said:

"Damned plucky of you. My brother's a bit of an ass at times."

It was not really plucky, it was merely the fear of doing the wrong thing. But the House thought that, after all, there might be something in at least one of those wretched new kids. One or two people looked at him almost with interest that night in hall.

That was Gordon's first step. Afterwards things were not so hard. Mansell began to think him rather a sport, as well as an indispensable aid to classical studies, and Mansell counted for something. Meredith smiled at him one day.... A public School was not such a bad hole after all. And his cup of happiness seemed almost running over when one afternoon after a game of rugger he overheard Lovelace minor say to Hunter:

"That kid Caruthers wasn't half bad."

For he saw that the sure way to popularity lay in success on the field; and because it was the weak as the strong point of his character that he longed with a wild longing for power and popularity, it was already his ambition to be some day captain of the House, and to lead his side to glorious victories.


"Of course 'the Bull' may be a jolly fine fellow and all that, but he does exceed the limit at times."

Lovelace minor was speaking; it was the evening after the Dulbridge Match. The school had been beaten by twenty-seven points to three, by a much faster and heavier side. Meredith had been ill and could not play. Lovelace major had sprained his ankle in the first half, and though he had gone on playing was very little use. The match had all along been a foregone conclusion. But "the Bull" had lost his temper entirely.

Hunter, Mansell and Jeffries, a Colt, who ran a good chance of getting his House cap the next term, were discussing the matter. Gordon, who had come in to do Thucydides, was sitting in the background, a little shy and very interested.

"Is it true," said Jeffries, "that your brother threatened to resign the captaincy if he did not keep quiet?"

"Yes. By Jove, my brother let him have it. That's what 'the Bull' wants; he wants a fellow who's not afraid of him to stand up against him. Fernhurst has been run by him long enough. He is a splendid fellow; and when he's sane I almost love him. But he has become an absolute tyrant. Thank God, he can't ride roughshod over my brother."

Mansell here broke in. Mansell was rather fond of summing up.

"It's like this. 'The Bull's' a gorgeous fellow, he loves Fernhurst, he wants to love everyone in it. But he does not understand our House. We are not going to sweat ourselves to win some rotten Gym Cup or House Fives; we haven't time for that. We are amateurs. We play the hardest footer and the keenest cricket of all the houses, and that's where we stop. He wants us to train every minute, go for runs in the afternoon, do physical exercises before breakfast so as to become strong, clean-living Englishmen, who love their bodies and have some respect for their mind." (A roar of laughter. It was as though 'the Bull' were speaking.) "Well, I don't care a damn myself for my body or mind. All I know is that the House is going to get the Two Cock somehow, and that for six weeks we'll train like Hades, and then, when we've got the cup, we'll have a blind. We aren't pros who train the whole year round; we're amateurs!"

And Mansell was perhaps not far wrong.

"I say, you know," says Hunter, who had a cheerful way of suddenly flying off at a tangent, "talking of 'the Bull,' have you heard of the row in his house?"

Intense enthusiasm. Buller's was supposed to be "above suspicion."

"Oh, well, old Bull came round the dormitories last night and heard Peters and Fischer and some other lads talking the most arrant filth. He gave them all six in pyjamas on the spot, and Fischer is not going to be allowed to be house captain next year. Rather a jest, you know. Old Bull thought because his house was always in wonderful training that the spirit of innocence ruled over the place."

"Well, he must be an ass then," said Mansell. "Why, look at Richmore, and Parry; and even old Johnson has little respect for a bourgeois morality."

Mansell was rather pleased with the last phrase; he was not quite certain what it meant. G.K. Chesterton used it somewhere, probably in his apology for George IV. It sounded rather nice.

"Well, it's obvious that a blood must be a bit of a rip; and Buller's is merely an asylum for bloods!"

This rather perplexed Gordon. He ventured a question rather timidly: "But is it impossible for a blood to be a decent fellow?"

"Decent fellow?" cried Jeffries. "Who on earth has said they were anything else? Johnson's a simply glorious man. Only a bit fast; and that doesn't matter much."

In a farewell lecture, Gordon's preparatory school master had given him to believe that it mattered a good deal, but he was doubtless old-fashioned. Times were changed; Gordon had ceased to be shocked at what he heard; he was learning what life was, and how strange and beautiful and ugly it was.

As the winter term drew to a close, Gordon grew more and more sure of himself. He had passed by nearly all the other new boys. Foster, it is true, had got on well according to his lights, and was on more than friendly terms with Evans, the school slow bowler. But he was not much liked by his equals. Rudd was looked on quite rightly as an absolute buffoon; Collins got on fairly well, but was generally admitted to be a bit eccentric. Gordon was, without doubt, the pick of the crew. His position in form was a great help. Mansell's friends thought him a cheerful, amusing and respectable-looking person, and were quite pleased to have him about the place. Next term he was going to have a study with Jeffries. The Chief thought he had got on rather too quick. But he was usually among the first three in his form, and there was nothing definite to find fault with, and, after all, his friends were excellent fellows. There was nothing against them. Jeffries was genially selfish, always ready for a rag, a keen footballer, and had, like most other Public School boys, adopted a convenient broadmindedness with regard to cribbing and other matters.

"If the master is such an arrant ass as to let you crib, it is his own lookout; and, after all, we take the sporting chance."

Lovelace minor was rather a different sort of person. Very excitable, he despised and deceived most of the masters; among his friends he was unimpeachably loyal. He loved games, but never took them sufficiently seriously to please "the Bull." He played for his own pleasure, not "the Bull's." He was a splendid companion.

Hunter was rather a nonentity; his chief attraction was that he usually had the last bit of scandal at his finger-tips; he was safe to be consulted on any point of school politics. It was his boast that he had sufficient evidence to expel half the Fifteen and the whole Eleven.

At this time Gordon found school life inexpressibly joyful. There were minor troubles, but they were few. The only thing that really worried him was Corps Parade. This infliction occurred once every week, and for two hours Gordon passed through hell. He was in a recruits' section under a man from Rogers' house, who was a typical product of his house. He was oily, yellow and unpleasant to look upon. He also loathed Gordon. There was a feud between the men from Rogers' and the School House.

Rogers was the captain in command of the corps. To Gordon he seemed exactly like what Cicero must have been, loud, contentious, smashing down pasteboard castles with a terrific din. He was amazingly arrogant and conceited. In the pulpit and on the parade ground he was in his element. The School House had for years been notorious for their slackness on parade. In drill and musketry competitions they had invariably come out bottom, and Rogers hated them for it. It was indeed a great sight to see the School House half company at work. Everyone was fed to death, and took no pains to hide the fact. Once Rogers had said to the House colour-sergeant:

"Phillips, form up your men facing right."

Phillips looked round at them, thought for a second or two and then drawled: "Look here, you fellows, shove round there." And the subsequent sarcastic comment was quite lost on him. He was a good forward, but not too clever. He was proof against epigram.

It was truly a noble sight to see Lovelace minor come on parade. Every week exactly two seconds late, in the dead silence that followed the sergeant-major's thundered "Parade!" he would dash through the school gate, puffing and blowing, his drum knocking against his equipment, his hat crooked, half his buttons undone. He would barge through two sections, rush to the School House half-company, bang his rifle on the ground, and say to his companion in a stage whisper: "I wasn't noticed, was I?"

But these were only incidents. As a whole everything connected with the corps was "a hell upon earth." Field days consisted of a long march, a sublime mix-up, a speech from Rogers, a bad tea, then a long march home. No one knew what was happening; no one cared. It was a sheer waste of time. Only Rogers really enjoyed himself.

Then suddenly it occurred to Clarke that such a state of affairs was a disgrace to the House. He had just been made a colour-sergeant, and determined to wake things up. He made a long speech to the House, pointing out the necessity for National Service, the importance of militarism, and its effect on citizenship. He finished by a patriotic outburst, telling them that they were wearing the King's uniform, and that it must be kept clean, with the brass badges polished. The House was mildly interested; its attitude was summed up in Turner's remark:

"The King's uniform will have to go buttonless as far as I am concerned. Damned if I'll waste twopence to buy a rotten bone button."

On the next parade, however, Clarke inspected the company. Half the House had to call him the next morning, dressed properly, at seven o'clock. That would mean getting up at six-thirty. General consternation.

"It's a crying scandal," said Lovelace minor. "If I had not been reported for slacking at French I'd jolly well go and complain to the Chief. How can anyone play football without proper sleep?"

Gordon laughed from the depths of his arm-chair. There were advantages in being a recruit, even if one was ordered about by a man in Rogers' who didn't wash. Hunter and Jeffries raged furiously; they swore that they would not turn up. "Who is Clarke, damn his eyes, to take on the privileges of a brigadier-general? It's a House tradition that no one tries at parade."

Overnight Hunter was very full of rebellion; but seven o'clock saw him in shining brass, meekly standing before Clarke, who examined them from his bed with an electric torch. But Jeffries cut; he was ever "agin the government." He got six. His tunic was clean next week. The House growled and cursed inwardly, but its appearance on parade was very different. Clarke was a man.

There is nothing so self-satisfying as to watch trouble from a safe distance. Gordon was thoroughly happy. Mansell cursed heavily every Monday night before the Tuesday parade. Clarke became to the House what Cromwell was to Ireland; even the feeble Davenham thought it was a bit thick. But Gordon was a recruit, and such things did not worry him. Life was just then amazingly exciting. He was developing into quite a useful forward. Mansell said he was certain for a place in the House Thirds side. He was high up in form, and there was a good chance of his getting a prize, but what perhaps counted more than anything else was the fact that he was getting a position in the House. Prefects had ceased to ask him what his name was. He was no longer a nonentity; he was looked on as a coming man.

As the term wore on, the thought of exams. brought to Gordon only a feeling of excitement. There was little likelihood of disaster; there was the certainty of a good struggle for the first place between himself and one Walford, a dull though industrious outhouse individual. But to some of his friends exams. seemed as the day of reckoning. Lovelace minor was frankly at his wits' end. He had slacked most abominably the whole term. He had prepared none of his books, and his next-door neighbour had supplied him with all necessary information. Now the news was about that IV. B was going to sit with the Sixth Form for exams. Terror reigned. There could be no cribbing under the Chief's nose. Jeffries was in the same plight; but he was a philosopher. "If I get bottled in every paper," he said, "it will only mean about two hours' work on each subject. But if I am going to know enough to avoid being bottled, it will mean a good eight hours' work at each subject: six hours wasted on each. In these times of bustle it can't be done. Caruthers, pass me that red-backed novel on the second shelf!"

Lovelace, however, was perturbed, and set out to prepare himself for the ordeal. But his was a temperament that forbade application on any subject other than horse racing. Every night he paced up and down the study passages getting hints first from one person then another, and always staying for a talk. By the end of preparation the result was always the same—nothing done; and he and Jeffries both spent the last Saturday in exactly the same way.

But with Mansell it was different. If he got a promotion his pater had promised him a motor bike. At first sight this seemed impossible. Hunter in fact laid a hundred to one against his chances. But for once Mansell really tried at something besides games. For two halls he worked solidly from seven till ten, preparing small slips of paper that contained all the notes he could find in Gordon's notebook, and that could fit conveniently into the back of a watch. Everything was in his favour. Claremont was taking exams. The first paper was Old Testament history. Mansell looked at his watch repeatedly; but suddenly he came to an unexpected question. He endeavoured to extract an answer from the man on his right.

Claremont spotted him.

"Well, Mansell, if I ask you if you are cribbing, I know you will deny it, and I don't want you to tell me a lie; but I must beg of you not to talk quite so loudly."

Any ordinary master would have torn up the boy's paper. But Claremont was getting old.

At any rate for the rest of the exams. Mansell relied entirely on his notes. The Greek translation paper, however, was more than he could do. Promotion did not count on a set subject, but only on English and Latin; so Greek had gone by the board. After writing the most amazing nonsense for two hours, Mansell decided that it was wiser not to enter into competition at all with those low tricksters who had prepared their work. He showed up no papers at all.

Next day Claremont corrected the papers.

"Well, Mansell, I can't find your paper anywhere."

"I showed it up, sir."

"Well, I am sure I don't know where it is. You had better go and find Mr Douglas, and ask him if he knows anything about it."

Mr Douglas was the mathematical master, to whom all marks were sent. He added them up, and made out the orders.

After an unnecessarily long interval Mansell returned.

"I am sorry, sir; Mr Douglas has not seen them."

"Well, I suppose it must be all my fault. I shall have to give you an average on your papers, which, strange to say, have been, for you, remarkably good."

Mansell was averaged sixth for the paper. A real good bluff gives more pleasure than all the honest exercises of one's life put together.

There was laughter in No. 16 Study that evening. A few weeks ago Gordon would have been horrified at such a thing; but now it seemed a splendid jest. He would not have cribbed himself. He preferred to beat a man with his own brains, though Mansell would have protested that it was a greater effort to pit one's brains against a master long trained in spotting tricks than against some dull-headed scholar. The Public School system, at any rate, teaches its sons the art of framing very ingenious theories with which to defend their faults; a negative virtue, perhaps, but none the less an achievement.

The last days of term were now drawing in. The House supper was only a few days off and the holidays very close. Everyone was glad on the whole to have finished the Christmas term, which is invariably the worst of the three. And this year it had not been improved by Clarke's military activities and the feeling of unrest that overhung the doings of the Fifteen, because of Lovelace major's never-ending broils with "the Bull." Two strong men both wanted their own way. On the whole, honours were even, though, if anything, slightly in Lovelace's favour, since he had filled up the scrum with a School House forward and a member of Benson's, a small and rather insignificant House, instead of giving the colours to men in Buller's.

But next term there would be fewer rows. There would be house matches, and each house captain would run things in his own house as he wished. The school captain did little except post up which grounds each house was to occupy. The School House always longed for the Easter term. It was their chance of showing the rest of the school what they were made of. As they were slightly bigger than any other house, they claimed the honour of playing the three best of the outhouses in the great Three Cock House Match for the Senior Challenge Cup. This year, with Lovelace and Meredith, a School House victory was looked on as almost certain. Besides this big event there were the Two Cock and Thirds House Match. In the "Thirds" the School House under sixteen house side played against the two best of the outhouses under sixteen sides, for the Thirds Challenge Cup. And in the Two Cock, the second House Fifteen—that is, the House Fifteen minus those with first and second Fifteen colours—played the two best of the outhouse second Fifteens for the Junior Challenge Cup. The results of these last two matches were very much on the knees of the gods. The House stood a fair chance, but the general opinion was that Buller's would win the Thirds; and Christy's, a house that was full of average players who were too slack to get their seconds, would pull off the Two Cock. At any rate, there would be no lack of excitement. There was always far more keenness shown about house matches than school matches, a fact which worried Buller immensely. He thought everything should be secondary to the interests of Fernhurst.

On the last Saturday of the term there was the House Supper. It was a noble affair. The bloods wore evening dress; even the untidiest junior oiled his hair and put on a clean collar. At the Sixth Form table sat the Chief, some guests, Lovelace, Clarke, and a certain Ferguson, who edited The Fernhurst School Magazine, and was to propose the health of the old boys, of whom about twenty had come down, several having helped to defeat the school by twenty points to sixteen in the afternoon. Never had so much food been seen before. Turner had boasted that he always went into training a week before the event, so as to enjoy it more. But the real triumph was the hot punch. As soon as dessert had begun the old boys trooped out, and brought in a huge steaming bowl of punch, from which they filled all the glasses. Gordon did not like it much. It seemed very hot and strong. But everyone else seemed to. Jeffries got a little excited.

Then speeches followed. The Chief proposed the fortune of the House, Clarke answered him. There was the usual applause and clapping. But the real event was Lovelace's speech. It had been a year of great success. The Three Cock had been lost by only a very small margin. The Two Cock had been won in a walk-over, and the Thirds by two points. The Senior Cricket and the Sports Cup had also been won. It was very nearly a record year. Lovelace was received with terrific applause; he congratulated the House on its performance; he mentioned individual names; each was the signal for a roar of cheering; and then, at the end, he said:

"And now I have a message to the House from the old boys. Let us have the Three Cock Cup back again on the School House sideboard. It is the place where it should be, and that's the place where we are going to put it! Gentlemen, The Three Cock!"

Amid a deafening noise the toast was drunk, and a voice from the back yelled out: "Three cheers for Lovelace!" His health, too, was drunk, and they sang For he's a Jolly Good Fellow.

After this all else seemed tame. Ferguson made a speech that was meant to be very funny, but rather missed fire. He had read Dorian Gray the whole of the evening before, underlining appropriate aphorisms. But to the average boy Oscar Wilde is (rather luckily perhaps) a little too advanced. The evening finished with Auld Lang Syne. Everyone stood on the table and roared himself hoarse. The score in damage was twenty plates broken beyond repair, sixteen punch glasses in fragments, fourteen cracked plates, two broken gas mantles. When the revellers had departed the hall looked rather gloomy, as probably Nero's did when his guests fled after the murder of Britannicus.

Next morning there was early service for communicants. But the School House was entirely pagan. Hardly a man went. On Sunday there was a great feed in Study 16. Somehow or other ten people got packed into as many square feet of room. Gordon was there; and Mansell, of course; Collins came to act as general clown; Fitzroy, a small friend of Jeffries, sat in a far corner looking rather uncomfortable. Spence, Carey and Tiddy made up the number; the last were quite the ordinary Public School type, their conversation ran entirely on games, scandal and the work they had not done. Lovelace was mildly bored.

"It's pretty fair rot, you know. Here have I been fair sweating away at the exams, every minute of my time, and Jeffries, who has not done a stroke, is above me."

Jeffries was bottom but one.

"Oh, rotten luck," said Mansell. "You should do like me. Old fool Claremont said I had done damned well!"

"He hardly put it that way," came from Gordon; "but I believe Mansell has managed more or less to deceive the examiners."

"Oh, I say, that's a bit thick, you know," said Mansell. "Oh, damn, who is that at the door?"

There was a feeble knock. "Come in!" shouted at least six voices simultaneously.

Davenham came in looking rather frightened.

"I'm sorry.... Is Caruthers in here?"

"Yes, young fellow, he is."

"Oh, Caruthers, Meredith wants you!"

"Damn him," said Gordon. "What a nuisance these prefects are."

Very unwillingly he got up and strolled upstairs.

He was away rather a long time. After twenty minutes' absence he returned rather moodily.

"Hullo, at last; you've been the hell of a long time," said Hunter. "What did he want?"

"Oh, nothing; only something about my boxing subscription."

"Well, he took long enough about it, I must say. Was that all?"

"Of course. Cake, please, Fitzroy!"

The subject was dropped.

But just before chapel Jeffries ran into Gordon in the cloister.

"Look here, Caruthers, what did Meredith really want you for? I swear I won't tell anyone."

"Oh, well, I don't mind you knowing.... You know what Meredith is, well—I mean—oh, you know, the usual stuff. He wanted me to meet him out for a walk to-morrow. I told him in polite language to go to the 'devil.'"

"Good Lord, did you really? But why? If Meredith gets fed up with you he could give you the hell of a time."

"Oh, I know he could, but he wouldn't over a thing like that. Damn it all, the man is a gentleman."

"Of course he is, but all the same he is a blood, and it pays to keep on good terms with them."

"Oh, I don't know; it's risky—and well, I think the whole idea is damned silly nonsense."

Jeffries looked at him rather curiously.

"Yes," he said, "I suppose that is how the small boy always looks at it."

It was only for an hour or so, however, that Gordon let this affair worry him. The holidays were only forty-eight hours off and he was longing to hear the results of the exams., and to know whether he had a prize.

Prize-giving was always held at five o'clock on the last Monday. And the afternoon dragged by very slowly. Mansell assumed a cheerful indifference. He thought his motor bike fairly certain. Rumour had it there were going to be at least twelve promotions into the Lower Fifth. Jeffries and Lovelace had also nothing to worry about; there was little doubt as to their positions. Hunter specialised in chemistry, and had done no examination papers. But for Gordon the suspense was intolerable. He could find nothing to do; he climbed up the Abbey tower, and wrote his name on the big hand of the clock; he roped up his playbox, tipped the school porter; and still there was an hour and a half to put in. Disconsolately he wandered down town. He strolled into Gisson's, the school book-seller's: it contained nothing but the Home University Library series and numerous Everymans. It was just like his first day over again. But at last five o'clock came, and he sat with his four friends at the back of the big schoolroom. He grew more and more tired of hearing the lists of the Second and Third Forms read out. What interest did he take in the doings of Pappenheim and Guttridge tertius? IV. A was reached at length. The list was read from the bottom.

Not placed—Hunter.

Slowly the names were read out; the single figures were now reached:

Mansell—term's work, eighteen. Exams., one. Combined order, four.

This difference of position caused a titter to run round among those of the School House who knew the cause of it. The third name and then the second was reached:

Caruthers—Term's work, one. Exams., three. Combined order, one.

Term's Prize—Caruthers. Exams.—Mansell.

The latter's performance was the signal for an uproarious outburst of applause, in which laughter played a large part. There was still more merriment when it was discovered that he had got as a prize Sartor Resartus. As he crudely put it: "What the bloody hell does it mean?" Gordon got the Indian Mutiny, by Malleson. Both books now repose, as do most prizes, in the owners' book-cases, unread.

"Congrats, Mansell, old fellow," yelled Lovelace minor, as the school poured out at the end of the prize-giving. "Glorious! What a School House triumph."

"Yes, you know," said Mansell. "But it doesn't seem quite fair, and I am damned if I want this book. It looks the most utter rot. I say, shall I give it to that little kid in Buller's, I forget his name, who was second? He looks a bit upset. Shall I, I say?"

"Don't be a silly fool, Mansell," said Lovelace major, who happened to overhear the conversation. "You've just got the only prize you're ever likely to get for work; stick on to it."

The rest of the day was pure, unalloyed joy to Gordon. He rushed off after tea to wire the news home; then he sat in the gallery and listened to the concert. He had expected to enjoy it rather; but the seats were uncomfortable, the music too classical, and he soon stopped paying any attention to the choir, and began a long argument with Collins as to the composition of the Two Cock scrum.

The next morning as the train steamed out of Fernhurst, and he lay back in the carriage smoking a cigarette, outwardly with the air of a connoisseur, inwardly with the timid nervousness of a novice, he reflected that, in spite of the Rev. Rogers, school was a pretty decent sort of place.


"I say, it is true; Lovelace major has left."

"Good Lord, no; is it?"

"He's not on the House list?"

"I heard he'd passed into the army at last."

"I wonder who he was sitting next."

"And we shall have that silly ass Armour captain of the House."

"Ye gods!"

A small crowd had gathered in front of the studies on the first night of the Easter term. Consternation reigned. The almost impossible had happened. Lovelace major had passed into Sandhurst at his fifth attempt, and Armour would take his place as house captain. It was a disaster. Armour was doubtless a most worthy fellow, a thoroughly honest, hard-working forward. But he had no personality. When he passed by, fags did not suddenly stop talking, as they did when Clarke or Meredith rolled past them. The term before, he had not even been a house prefect. The Three Cock, which had once seemed such a certainty, now became a forlorn hope.

"It's rotten," said Lovelace minor that night in the dormitory. "My brother didn't think he had the very ghost of a chance of passing. He'd mucked it up four times running, only the silly ass had done both the unseens with "the Bull" the week before, and he was too damned slack to alter them, and write them down wrong. He always was an ass, my brother."

Everyone was sorry. Even "the Bull" regarded him with a sort of indulgent sentimentality. He never saw very much good in a School House captain as long as he was there; but as soon as he left, all his faults were forgotten and virtues that he had never possessed were flung at him in profusion. The result was that "the Bull" said to the School House captain of each generation: "I have had more trouble with you than any Fernhurst boy I have ever met. You can't see beyond the length of your own dining-hall. See big. See the importance of Fernhurst, and the insignificance of yourself."

But no one was more sorry than Armour. He did not want responsibility; he had not sought for it. He wished to have fought in the School House battles as a private, not as an officer. He loved the House, and longed for its success, and trembled to think that he might ruin its chances by a weak and vacillating captaincy. Moreover, he felt that he had no one to back him up. Meredith, Robey and Simonds, the other members of the First Fifteen in the House, were all grousing and wondering how large a score the outhouses would run up in the Three Cock. No one placed any confidence in his abilities. He was entirely alone.

The next day was pouring wet; the ground was under water. Most house captains would have sent their houses for a run. But Armour wanted to make his start as early as possible. He couldn't bear to delay. That afternoon the probable Thirds side played against the rest of the House, with the exception of the Second colours. Armour had never felt so nervous before; it was actually the first time he had refereed on a game. Jeffries was captain of the Thirds, and kicked off. It was, of course, a scrappy game. On such a day good football was impossible. The outsides hardly touched the ball once. But the forwards, covered in mud from head to foot, had their full share of work. Jeffries was ubiquitous; he led the "grovel" (as the scrum was called at Fernhurst), and kept it together. Gordon had very little chance of distinguishing himself; but he did one or two dribbles, and managed to collar Mansell the only time he looked like getting away. Lovelace minor, who played fly-half, had nothing to do except stop forward rushes, was kicked all over his body, got very cold and never had a chance once. He was utterly miserable the whole hour. All this was in favour of Armour. He knew nothing about three-quarter work, but he had played forward ever since he had gone to the Fernhurst preparatory at ten years of age, and could always spot the worker and the slacker, which Lovelace major never could. On the whole, taking a house game was not so terrifying after all; by half-time he had forgotten his nervousness in his excitement at watching how his side was going to shape.

"You know, I don't think Armour so rotten as people said he would be," said Gordon, as they came up after the game. "I thought he was all right."

"Oh yes, he's not so bad; but he does not seem much when you shove him next to Lovelace major."

"Well, you know," said Jeffries, "he does know something about forward play, which I am damned if Lovelace did."

"Perhaps so; but all the same Lovelace was the man to win matches." Mansell was an outside, and loved dash and brilliance, but the forwards were not sorry to have someone in command who understood them. Armour had begun well.

* * * * *

There are still people who will maintain that the ideal schoolboy in school hours thinks only about Vergil and Sophocles, and in the field concentrates entirely on drop kicks and yorkers. But that boy does not exist; and in the Easter term it is impossible to think of anything but house matches. Those who were in the power of some form martinet had a terrible time this term. But Gordon and Mansell found themselves safely at rest in Claremont's form and Greek set, and made up their minds just to stay there and do only enough work to avoid being bottled.

For the Lower Fifth was certainly the refuge of many weather-beaten mariners. Pat Johnstone had laboriously worked up from the bottom form, led on only by the hope that one day he would reach V. B, and there repose at the back of the room, living his last terms in peace. Ruddock had once set out with high hopes of reaching the Sixth; his first term he had won a Divinity prize in the Shell. But under Claremont he had discovered the truth, learnt long ago in the land of Lotus Eaters, "that slumber is more sweet than toil!" The back benches of that room were strewn with shattered hopes. Small intelligent scholars came up and passed by on their way to Balliol Scholarships; but the faces at the back of the room remained terribly somnolent and happy. A certain Banbury had been there for three years and had earned the nickname of "old Father Time," and Mansell, too, swore he would enrol himself with the Lost Legion, while even Gordon said that nothing would shift him from there for at least a year.

Claremont had many strange ideas, the most striking of which was the belief that boys felt a passionate love for poetry. The average boy has probably read all the poetry he will ever read terms before he ever reaches the Fifth Form. By the time he is in Shell he has learnt to appreciate Kipling, the more choice bits of Don Juan and a few plain-spoken passages in Shakespeare. If English Literature were taught differently, if he were led by stages from Macaulay to Scott, from Byron to Rossetti, he might perhaps appreciate the splendid heritage of song, but as it is, swung straight from If to the Ode to the Nightingale he finds the "shy beauty" of Keats most unutterable nonsense. Claremont, however, thought otherwise, and ran his form accordingly. In repetition this was especially noticeable. Kennedy, a small boy with glasses, who was always word-perfect, would nervously mumble through Henry V's speech (they always learnt Shakespeare) in an accurate but totally uninspired way. Mansell would stand at the back of the form and blunder out blank verse, much of which was his own, and little of which was Shakespeare, but which certainly sounded most impressive.

"Well, Kennedy," Claremont would say, "you certainly know your words very well, but I can't bear the way you say them. Five out of twenty. Mansell, you evidently have made little attempt to learn your repetition at all, but I love your fervour. One so rarely finds anyone really affected by the passion of poetry. Fifteen out of twenty."

During his two years in the Lower Fifth Mansell never once spent more than five minutes learning his "rep," yet on no occasion did he get less than twelve out of twenty. A bare outline was required, a loud voice supplied the rest.

In this form it was that Gordon first began to crib. He did not do it to get marks. He merely wished to avoid being "bottled." Some headmasters, and the writers to The Boy's Own Paper, draw lurid pictures of the bully who by cribbing steals the prize from the poor innocent who looks up every word in a big Liddell and Scott; but such people don't exist. No one ever cribbed in order to get a prize: they crib from mere slackness. Mansell's exam. prize in IV. A is about the only instance of a prize won by cribbing. Besides, cribbing is an art.

Ruddock, for instance, when he used to go on to translate, was accustomed to take up his Vergil in one hand and his Bohn in the other.

"What is that other book, Ruddock?" Claremont asked once.

"Some notes, sir," was the perfectly truthful answer.

Ruddock was, moreover, an altruist; he always worked for the good of his fellow-men. One day, when Mansell was bungling most abominably with his Euripides, he flung his Bohn along the desk, Mansell picked it up, propped it in front of him and read it off. Claremont never noticed. This was the start of a great system of combination. Everyone at the beginning of the term paid twopence to the general account with which Ruddock bought some Short Steps to Accurate Translations. As each person went on to translate, the book was passed to him and he read straight out of it. The translating was, in consequence, always of a remarkably high standard. Claremont never understood why examinations always proved the signal for a general collapse. History, however, was a subject that had long been a worry to the form. Dates are irrevocable facts and cannot be altered, they must be learnt. At one time, when Claremont said, "Shut your book. I will ask a few questions," everyone shut their Latin grammars loudly and kept their history books open; but this was rather too obvious a ruse; Claremont began to spot it. Something had to be done. It would be an insult to expect any member of the form to prepare a lesson. It was Gordon who finally devised a plan.

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