The Gold Bat
by P. G. Wodehouse
I. THE FIFTEENTH
II. THE GOLD BAT
III. THE MAYOR'S
IV. THE LEAGUE'S
V. MILL RECEIVES
VII. “WITH THE
VIII. O'HARA ON
IX. MAINLY ABOUT
X. BEING A
XII. NEWS OF THE
XIV. THE WHITE
XV. A SPRAIN AND
A VACANT PLACE
XVI. THE RIPTON
WATCHERS IN THE
XIX. THE MAYOR'S
XX. THE FINDING
OF THE BAT
XXI. THE LEAGUE
XXII. A DRESS
THAT PRINCE OF SLACKERS,
I. 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
“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
“Well, it wasn't the halves' fault. We always got it out to the
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“Rand-Brown, of course,” said the crowd.
But the experts, as we have shown, were of a different opinion.
II. 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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
III. 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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“And what did you do till half-past seven?”
“We couldn't get back the way we'd come, so we slept in the
“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
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.
IV. 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
“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
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
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
“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
“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 men out he
goes. The Old Man wouldn't think twice about sacking a chap of that
“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.
V. 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
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
“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
“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,
“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
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.
VI. 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
“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 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
“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
“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.
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,”
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.”
VII. “WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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,
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?”
“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
Allowed in Callao.'
Either of you chaps coming over to school?”
VIII. 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
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
“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
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.
IX. 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
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
“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 any-body
“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
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
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
“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
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.
X. 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.
It was just five o'clock when Barry and M'Todd started to get things
ready. They were not high enough up in the school to have fags, so that
they had to do this for themselves.
Barry was still in football clothes. He had been out running and
passing with the first fifteen. M'Todd, whose idea of exercise was
winding up a watch, had been spending his time since school ceased in
the study with a book. He was in his ordinary clothes. It was therefore
fortunate that, when he upset the kettle (he nearly always did at some
period of the evening's business), the contents spread themselves over
Barry, and not over himself. Football clothes will stand any amount of
water, whereas M'Todd's “Youth's winter suiting at forty-two shillings
and sixpence” might have been injured. Barry, however, did not look
upon the episode in this philosophical light. He spoke to him
eloquently for a while, and then sent him downstairs to fetch more
water. While he was away, Drummond and De Bertini came in.
“Hullo,” said Drummond, “tea ready?”
“Not much,” replied Barry, bitterly, “not likely to be, either, at
this rate. We'd just got the kettle going when that ass M'Todd plunged
against the table and upset the lot over my bags. Lucky the beastly
stuff wasn't boiling. I'm soaked.”
“While we wait—the sausages—Yes?—a good idea—M'Todd, he is
downstairs—but to wait? No, no. Let us. Shall we? Is it not so? Yes?”
observed Bertie, lucidly.
“Now construe,” said Barry, looking at the linguist with a
bewildered expression. It was a source of no little inconvenience to
his friends that De Bertini was so very fixed in his determination to
speak English. He was a trier all the way, was De Bertini. You rarely
caught him helping out his remarks with the language of his native
land. It was English or nothing with him. To most of his circle it
might as well have been Zulu.
Drummond, either through natural genius or because he spent more
time with him, was generally able to act as interpreter. Occasionally
there would come a linguistic effort by which even he freely confessed
himself baffled, and then they would pass on unsatisfied. But, as a
rule, he was equal to the emergency. He was so now.
“What Bertie means,” he explained, “is that it's no good us waiting
for M'Todd to come back. He never could fill a kettle in less than ten
minutes, and even then he's certain to spill it coming upstairs and
have to go back again. Let's get on with the sausages.”
The pan had just been placed on the fire when M'Todd returned with
the water. He tripped over the mat as he entered, and spilt about half
a pint into one of his football boots, which stood inside the door, but
the accident was comparatively trivial, and excited no remark.
“I wonder where that slacker Shoeblossom has got to,” said Barry.
“He never turns up in time to do any work. He seems to regard himself
as a beastly guest. I wish we could finish the sausages before he
comes. It would be a sell for him.”
“Not much chance of that,” said Drummond, who was kneeling before
the fire and keeping an excited eye on the spluttering pan, “you
see. He'll come just as we've finished cooking them. I believe the man
waits outside with his ear to the keyhole. Hullo! Stand by with the
plate. They'll be done in half a jiffy.”
Just as the last sausage was deposited in safety on the plate, the
door opened, and Shoeblossom, looking as if he had not brushed his hair
since early childhood, sidled in with an attempt at an easy nonchalance
which was rendered quite impossible by the hopeless state of his
“Ah,” he said, “brewing, I see. Can I be of any use?”
“We've finished years ago,” said Barry.
“Ages ago,” said M'Todd.
A look of intense alarm appeared on Shoeblossom's classical
“You've not finished, really?”
“We've finished cooking everything,” said Drummond. “We haven't
begun tea yet. Now, are you happy?”
Shoeblossom was. So happy that he felt he must do something to
celebrate the occasion. He felt like a successful general. There must
be something he could do to show that he regarded the situation
with approval. He looked round the study. Ha! Happy thought—the
frying-pan. That useful culinary instrument was lying in the fender,
still bearing its cargo of fat, and beside it—a sight to stir the
blood and make the heart beat faster—were the sausages, piled up on
Shoeblossom stooped. He seized the frying-pan. He gave it one twirl
in the air. Then, before any one could stop him, he had turned it
upside down over the fire. As has been already remarked, you could
never predict exactly what James Rupert Leather-Twigg would be up to
When anything goes out of the frying-pan into the fire, it is
usually productive of interesting by-products. The maxim applies to
fat. The fat was in the fire with a vengeance. A great sheet of flame
rushed out and up. Shoeblossom leaped back with a readiness highly
creditable in one who was not a professional acrobat. The covering of
the mantelpiece caught fire. The flames went roaring up the chimney.
Drummond, cool while everything else was so hot, without a word
moved to the mantelpiece to beat out the fire with a football shirt.
Bertie was talking rapidly to himself in French. Nobody could
understand what he was saying, which was possibly fortunate.
By the time Drummond had extinguished the mantelpiece, Barry had
also done good work by knocking the fire into the grate with the poker.
M'Todd, who had been standing up till now in the far corner of the
room, gaping vaguely at things in general, now came into action.
Probably it was force of habit that suggested to him that the time had
come to upset the kettle. At any rate, upset it he did—most of it over
the glowing, blazing mass in the grate, the rest over Barry. One of the
largest and most detestable smells the study had ever had to endure
instantly assailed their nostrils. The fire in the study was out now,
but in the chimney it still blazed merrily.
“Go up on to the roof and heave water down,” said Drummond, the
strategist. “You can get out from Milton's dormitory window. And take
care not to chuck it down the wrong chimney.”
Barry was starting for the door to carry out these excellent
instructions, when it flew open.
“Pah! What have you boys been doing? What an abominable smell. Pah!”
said a muffled voice. It was Mr Seymour. Most of his face was concealed
in a large handkerchief, but by the look of his eyes, which appeared
above, he did not seem pleased. He took in the situation at a glance.
Fires in the house were not rarities. One facetious sportsman had once
made a rule of setting the senior day-room chimney on fire every term.
He had since left (by request), but fires still occurred.
“Is the chimney on fire?”
“Yes, sir,” said Drummond.
“Go and find Herbert, and tell him to take some water on to the roof
and throw it down.” Herbert was the boot and knife cleaner at
Barry went. Soon afterwards a splash of water in the grate announced
that the intrepid Herbert was hard at it. Another followed, and
another. Then there was a pause. Mr Seymour thought he would look up to
see if the fire was out. He stooped and peered into the darkness, and,
even as he gazed, splash came the contents of the fourth pail, together
with some soot with which they had formed a travelling acquaintance on
the way down. Mr Seymour staggered back, grimy and dripping. There was
dead silence in the study. Shoeblossom's face might have been seen
The silence was broken by a hollow, sepulchral voice with a strong
“Did yer see any water come down then, sir?” said the voice.
Shoeblossom collapsed into a chair, and began to sob feebly.
* * * * *
“—disgraceful ... scandalous ... get up, Leather-Twigg ...
not to be trusted ... babies ... three hundred lines,
Leather-Twigg ... abominable ... surprised ... ought to be ashamed of
yourselves ... double, Leather-Twigg ... not fit to have studies
... atrocious ...—”
Such were the main heads of Mr Seymour's speech on the situation as
he dabbed desperately at the soot on his face with his handkerchief.
Shoeblossom stood and gurgled throughout. Not even the thought of six
hundred lines could quench that dauntless spirit.
“Finally,” perorated Mr Seymour, as he was leaving the room, “as you
are evidently not to be trusted with rooms of your own, I forbid you to
enter them till further notice. It is disgraceful that such a thing
should happen. Do you hear, Barry? And you, Drummond? You are not to
enter your studies again till I give you leave. Move your books down to
the senior day-room tonight.”
And Mr Seymour stalked off to clean himself.
“Anyhow,” said Shoeblossom, as his footsteps died away, “we saved
It is this indomitable gift of looking on the bright side that makes
us Englishmen what we are.
XI. THE HOUSE-MATCHES
It was something of a consolation to Barry and his friends—at any
rate, to Barry and Drummond—that directly after they had been evicted
from their study, the house-matches began. Except for the Ripton match,
the house-matches were the most important event of the Easter term.
Even the sports at the beginning of April were productive of less
excitement. There were twelve houses at Wrykyn, and they played on the
“knocking-out” system. To be beaten once meant that a house was no
longer eligible for the competition. It could play “friendlies” as much
as it liked, but, play it never so wisely, it could not lift the cup.
Thus it often happened that a weak house, by fluking a victory over a
strong rival, found itself, much to its surprise, in the semi-final, or
sometimes even in the final. This was rarer at football than at
cricket, for at football the better team generally wins.
The favourites this year were Donaldson's, though some fancied
Seymour's. Donaldson's had Trevor, whose leader-ship was worth almost
more than his play. In no other house was training so rigid. You could
tell a Donaldson's man, if he was in his house-team, at a glance. If
you saw a man eating oatmeal biscuits in the shop, and eyeing wistfully
the while the stacks of buns and pastry, you could put him down as a
Donaldsonite without further evidence. The captains of the other houses
used to prescribe a certain amount of self-abnegation in the matter of
food, but Trevor left his men barely enough to support life—enough,
that is, of the things that are really worth eating. The consequence
was that Donaldson's would turn out for an important match all muscle
and bone, and on such occasions it was bad for those of their opponents
who had been taking life more easily. Besides Trevor they had Clowes,
and had had bad luck in not having Paget. Had Paget stopped, no other
house could have looked at them. But by his departure, the strength of
the team had become more nearly on a level with that of Seymour's.
Some even thought that Seymour's were the stronger. Milton was as
good a forward as the school possessed. Besides him there were Barry
and Rand-Brown on the wings. Drummond was a useful half, and five of
the pack had either first or second fifteen colours. It was a team that
would take some beating.
Trevor came to that conclusion early. “If we can beat Seymour's,
we'll lift the cup,” he said to Clowes.
“We'll have to do all we know,” was Clowes' reply.
They were watching Seymour's pile up an immense score against a
scratch team got up by one of the masters. The first round of the
competition was over. Donaldson's had beaten Templar's, Seymour's the
School House. Templar's were rather stronger than the School House, and
Donaldson's had beaten them by a rather larger score than that which
Seymour's had run up in their match. But neither Trevor nor Clowes was
inclined to draw any augury from this. Seymour's had taken things
easily after half-time; Donaldson's had kept going hard all through.
“That makes Rand-Brown's fourth try,” said Clowes, as the wing
three-quarter of the second fifteen raced round and scored in the
“Yes. This is the sort of game he's all right in. The man who's
marking him is no good. Barry's scored twice, and both good tries,
“Oh, there's no doubt which is the best man,” said Clowes. “I only
mentioned that it was Rand-Brown's fourth as an item of interest.”
The game continued. Barry scored a third try.
“We're drawn against Appleby's next round,” said Trevor. “We can
manage them all right.”
“When is it?”
“Next Thursday. Nomads' match on Saturday. Then Ripton, Saturday
“Who've Seymour's drawn?”
“Day's. It'll be a good game, too. Seymour's ought to win, but
they'll have to play their best. Day's have got some good men.”
“Fine scrum,” said Clowes. “Yes. Quick in the open, too, which is
always good business. I wish they'd beat Seymour's.”
“Oh, we ought to be all right, whichever wins.”
Appleby's did not offer any very serious resistance to the Donaldson
attack. They were outplayed at every point of the game, and, before
half-time, Donaldson's had scored their thirty points. It was a rule in
all in-school matches—and a good rule, too—that, when one side led by
thirty points, the match stopped. This prevented those massacres which
do so much towards crushing all the football out of the members of the
beaten team; and it kept the winning team from getting slack, by urging
them on to score their thirty points before half-time. There were some
houses—notoriously slack—which would go for a couple of seasons
without ever playing the second half of a match.
Having polished off the men of Appleby, the Donaldson team trooped
off to the other game to see how Seymour's were getting on with Day's.
It was evidently an exciting match. The first half had been played to
the accompaniment of much shouting from the ropes. Though coming so
early in the competition, it was really the semi-final, for whichever
team won would be almost certain to get into the final. The school had
turned up in large numbers to watch.
“Seymour's looking tired of life,” said Clowes. “That would seem as
if his fellows weren't doing well.”
“What's been happening here?” asked Trevor of an enthusiast in a
Seymour's house cap whose face was crimson with yelling.
“One goal all,” replied the enthusiast huskily. “Did you beat
“Yes. Thirty points before half-time. Who's been doing the scoring
“Milton got in for us. He barged through out of touch. We've been
pressing the whole time. Barry got over once, but he was held up.
Hullo, they're beginning again. Buck up, Sey-mour's.”
His voice cracking on the high note, he took an immense slab of
vanilla chocolate as a remedy for hoarseness.
“Who scored for Day's?” asked Clowes.
“Strachan. Rand-Brown let him through from their twenty-five. You
never saw anything so rotten as Rand-Brown. He doesn't take his passes,
and Strachan gets past him every time.”
“Is Strachan playing on the wing?”
Strachan was the first fifteen full-back.
“Yes. They've put young Bassett back instead of him. Sey-mour's. Buck up, Seymour's. We-ell played! There, did you ever see anything
like it?” he broke off disgustedly.
The Seymourite playing centre next to Rand-Brown had run through to
the back and passed out to his wing, as a good centre should. It was a
perfect pass, except that it came at his head instead of his chest.
Nobody with any pretensions to decent play should have missed it.
Rand-Brown, however, achieved that feat. The ball struck his hands and
bounded forward. The referee blew his whistle for a scrum, and a
certain try was lost.
From the scrum the Seymour's forwards broke away to the goal-line,
where they were pulled up by Bassett. The next minute the defence had
been pierced, and Drummond was lying on the ball a yard across the
line. The enthusiast standing by Clowes expended the last relics of his
voice in commemorating the fact that his side had the lead.
“Drummond'll be good next year,” said Trevor. And he made a mental
note to tell Allardyce, who would succeed him in the command of the
school football, to keep an eye on the player in question.
The triumph of the Seymourites was not long lived. Milton failed to
convert Drummond's try. From the drop-out from the twenty-five line
Barry got the ball, and punted into touch. The throw-out was not
straight, and a scrum was formed. The ball came out to the Day's
halves, and went across to Strachan. Rand-Brown hesitated, and then
made a futile spring at the first fifteen man's neck. Strachan handed
him off easily, and ran. The Seymour's full-back, who was a poor
player, failed to get across in time. Strachan ran round behind the
posts, the kick succeeded, and Day's now led by two points.
After this the game continued in Day's half. Five minutes before
time was up, Drummond got the ball from a scrum nearly on the line,
passed it to Barry on the wing instead of opening up the game by
passing to his centres, and Barry slipped through in the corner. This
put Seymour's just one point ahead, and there they stayed till the
whistle blew for no-side.
Milton walked over to the boarding-houses with Clowes and Trevor. He
was full of the match, particularly of the iniquity of Rand-Brown. “I
slanged him on the field,” he said. “It's a thing I don't often do, but
what else can you do when a man plays like that? He lost us
three certain tries.”
“When did you administer your rebuke?” inquired Clowes.
“When he had let Strachan through that second time, in the second
half. I asked him why on earth he tried to play footer at all. I told
him a good kiss-in-the-ring club was about his form. It was rather
cheap, but I felt so frightfully sick about it. It's sickening to be
let down like that when you've been pressing the whole time, and ought
to be scoring every other minute.”
“What had he to say on the subject?” asked Clowes.
“Oh, he gassed a bit until I told him I'd kick him if he said
another word. That shut him up.”
“You ought to have kicked him. You want all the kicking practice you
can get. I never saw anything feebler than that shot of yours after
“I'd like to see you take a kick like that. It was nearly on
the touch-line. Still, when we play you, we shan't need to convert any
of our tries. We'll get our thirty points without that. Perhaps you'd
like to scratch?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Clowes confidentially, “I am going to
score seven tries against you off my own bat. You'll be sorry you ever
turned out when we've finished with you.”
XII. NEWS OF THE GOLD BAT
Shoeblossom sat disconsolately on the table in the senior day-room.
He was not happy in exile. Brewing in the senior day-room was a mere
vulgar brawl, lacking all the refining influences of the study. You had
to fight for a place at the fire, and when you had got it 'twas not
always easy to keep it, and there was no privacy, and the fellows were
always bear-fighting, so that it was impossible to read a book quietly
for ten consecutive minutes without some ass heaving a cushion at you
or turning out the gas. Altogether Shoeblossom yearned for the peace of
his study, and wished earnestly that Mr Seymour would withdraw the
order of banishment. It was the not being able to read that he objected
to chiefly. In place of brewing, the ex-proprietors of studies five,
six, and seven now made a practice of going to the school shop. It was
more expensive and not nearly so comfortable—there is a romance about
a study brew which you can never get anywhere else—but it served, and
it was not on this score that he grumbled most. What he hated was
having to live in a bear-garden. For Shoeblossom was a man of moods.
Give him two or three congenial spirits to back him up, and he would
lead the revels with the abandon of a Mr Bultitude (after his
return to his original form). But he liked to choose his accomplices,
and the gay sparks of the senior day-room did not appeal to him. They
were not intellectual enough. In his lucid intervals, he was accustomed
to be almost abnormally solemn and respectable. When not promoting some
unholy rag, Shoeblossom resembled an elderly gentleman of studious
habits. He liked to sit in a comfortable chair and read a book. It was
the impossibility of doing this in the senior day-room that led him to
try and think of some other haven where he might rest. Had it been
summer, he would have taken some literature out on to the cricket-field
or the downs, and put in a little steady reading there, with the aid of
a bag of cherries. But with the thermometer low, that was impossible.
He felt very lonely and dismal. He was not a man with many friends.
In fact, Barry and the other three were almost the only members of the
house with whom he was on speaking-terms. And of these four he saw very
little. Drummond and Barry were always out of doors or over at the
gymnasium, and as for M'Todd and De Bertini, it was not worth while
talking to the one, and impossible to talk to the other. No wonder
Shoeblossom felt dull. Once Barry and Drummond had taken him over to
the gymnasium with them, but this had bored him worse than ever. They
had been hard at it all the time—for, unlike a good many of the
school, they went to the gymnasium for business, not to lounge—and he
had had to sit about watching them. And watching gymnastics was one of
the things he most loathed. Since then he had refused to go.
That night matters came to a head. Just as he had settled down to
read, somebody, in flinging a cushion across the room, brought down the
gas apparatus with a run, and before light was once more restored it
was tea-time. After that there was preparation, which lasted for two
hours, and by the time he had to go to bed he had not been able to read
a single page of the enthralling work with which he was at present
He had just got into bed when he was struck with a brilliant idea.
Why waste the precious hours in sleep? What was that saying of
somebody's, “Five hours for a wise man, six for somebody else—he
forgot whom—eight for a fool, nine for an idiot,” or words to that
effect? Five hours sleep would mean that he need not go to bed till
half past two. In the meanwhile he could be finding out exactly what
the hero did do when he found out (to his horror) that it was
his cousin Jasper who had really killed the old gentleman in the wood.
The only question was—how was he to do his reading? Prefects were
allowed to work on after lights out in their dormitories by the aid of
a candle, but to the ordinary mortal this was forbidden.
Then he was struck with another brilliant idea. It is a curious
thing about ideas. You do not get one for over a month, and then there
comes a rush of them, all brilliant. Why, he thought, should he not go
and read in his study with a dark lantern? He had a dark lantern. It
was one of the things he had found lying about at home on the last day
of the holidays, and had brought with him to school. It was his custom
to go about the house just before the holidays ended, snapping up
unconsidered trifles, which might or might not come in useful. This
term he had brought back a curious metal vase (which looked Indian, but
which had probably been made in Birmingham the year before last), two
old coins (of no mortal use to anybody in the world, including
himself), and the dark lantern. It was reposing now in the cupboard in
his study nearest the window.
He had brought his book up with him on coming to bed, on the chance
that he might have time to read a page or two if he woke up early. (He
had always been doubtful about that man Jasper. For one thing, he had
been seen pawning the old gentleman's watch on the afternoon of the
murder, which was a suspicious circumstance, and then he was not a nice
character at all, and just the sort of man who would be likely to
murder old gentlemen in woods.) He waited till Mr Seymour had paid his
nightly visit—he went the round of the dormitories at about
eleven—and then he chuckled gently. If Mill, the dormitory prefect,
was awake, the chuckle would make him speak, for Mill was of a
suspicious nature, and believed that it was only his unintermitted
vigilance which prevented the dormitory ragging all night.
Mill was awake.
“Be quiet, there,” he growled. “Shut up that noise.”
Shoeblossom felt that the time was not yet ripe for his departure.
Half an hour later he tried again. There was no rebuke. To make certain
he emitted a second chuckle, replete with sinister meaning. A slight
snore came from the direction of Mill's bed. Shoeblossom crept out of
the room, and hurried to his study. The door was not locked, for Mr
Seymour had relied on his commands being sufficient to keep the owner
out of it. He slipped in, found and lit the dark lantern, and settled
down to read. He read with feverish excitement. The thing was, you see,
that though Claud Trevelyan (that was the hero) knew jolly well that it
was Jasper who had done the murder, the police didn't, and, as he
(Claud) was too noble to tell them, he had himself been arrested on
suspicion. Shoeblossom was skimming through the pages with starting
eyes, when suddenly his attention was taken from his book by a sound.
It was a footstep. Somebody was coming down the passage, and under the
door filtered a thin stream of light. To snap the dark slide over the
lantern and dart to the door, so that if it opened he would be behind
it, was with him, as Mr Claud Trevelyan might have remarked, the work
of a moment. He heard the door of study number five flung open, and
then the footsteps passed on, and stopped opposite his own den. The
handle turned, and the light of a candle flashed into the room, to be
extinguished instantly as the draught of the moving door caught it.
Shoeblossom heard his visitor utter an exclamation of annoyance, and
fumble in his pocket for matches. He recognised the voice. It was Mr
Seymour's. The fact was that Mr Seymour had had the same experience as
General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance:
The man who finds his conscience ache,
No peace at all enjoys;
And, as I lay in bed awake,
I thought I heard a noise.
Whether Mr Seymour's conscience ached or not, cannot, of course, be
discovered. But he had certainly thought he heard a noise, and he had
come to investigate.
The search for matches had so far proved fruitless. Shoeblossom
stood and quaked behind the door. The reek of hot tin from the dark
lantern grew worse momentarily. Mr Seymour sniffed several times, until
Shoeblossom thought that he must be discovered. Then, to his immense
relief, the master walked away. Shoeblossom's chance had come. Mr
Seymour had probably gone to get some matches to relight his candle. It
was far from likely that the episode was closed. He would be back again
presently. If Shoeblossom was going to escape, he must do it now, so he
waited till the footsteps had passed away, and then darted out in the
direction of his dormitory.
As he was passing Milton's study, a white figure glided out of it.
All that he had ever read or heard of spectres rushed into
Shoeblossom's petrified brain. He wished he was safely in bed. He
wished he had never come out of it. He wished he had led a better and
nobler life. He wished he had never been born.
The figure passed quite close to him as he stood glued against the
wall, and he saw it disappear into the dormitory opposite his own, of
which Rigby was prefect. He blushed hotly at the thought of the fright
he had been in. It was only somebody playing the same game as himself.
He jumped into bed and lay down, having first plunged the lantern
bodily into his jug to extinguish it. Its indignant hiss had scarcely
died away when Mr Seymour appeared at the door. It had occurred to Mr
Seymour that he had smelt something very much out of the ordinary in
Shoeblossom's study, a smell uncommonly like that of hot tin. And a
suspicion dawned on him that Shoeblossom had been in there with a dark
lantern. He had come to the dormitory to confirm his suspicions. But a
glance showed him how unjust they had been. There was Shoeblossom fast
asleep. Mr Seymour therefore followed the excellent example of my Lord
Tomnoddy on a celebrated occasion, and went off to bed.
* * * * *
It was the custom for the captain of football at Wrykyn to select
and publish the team for the Ripton match a week before the day on
which it was to be played. On the evening after the Nomads' match,
Trevor was sitting in his study writing out the names, when there came
a knock at the door, and his fag entered with a letter.
“This has just come, Trevor,” he said.
“All right. Put it down.”
The fag left the room. Trevor picked up the letter. The handwriting
was strange to him. The words had been printed. Then it flashed upon
him that he had received a letter once before addressed in the same
way—the letter from the League about Barry. Was this, too, from that
address? He opened it.
He read it, and gasped. The worst had happened. The gold bat was in
the hands of the enemy.
XIII. VICTIM NUMBER THREE
“With reference to our last communication,” ran the letter—the
writer evidently believed in the commercial style—“it may interest you
to know that the bat you lost by the statue on the night of the 26th of
January has come into our possession. We observe that Barry is still
playing for the first fifteen.“
“And will jolly well continue to,” muttered Trevor, crumpling the
paper viciously into a ball.
He went on writing the names for the Ripton match. The last name on
the list was Barry's.
Then he sat back in his chair, and began to wrestle with this new
development. Barry must play. That was certain. All the bluff in the
world was not going to keep him from playing the best man at his
disposal in the Ripton match. He himself did not count. It was the
school he had to think of. This being so, what was likely to happen?
Though nothing was said on the point, he felt certain that if he
persisted in ignoring the League, that bat would find its way
somehow—by devious routes, possibly—to the headmaster or some one
else in authority. And then there would be questions—awkward
questions—and things would begin to come out. Then a fresh point
struck him, which was, that whatever might happen would affect, not
himself, but O'Hara. This made it rather more of a problem how to act.
Personally, he was one of those dogged characters who can put up with
almost anything themselves. If this had been his affair, he would have
gone on his way without hesitating. Evidently the writer of the letter
was under the impression that he had been the hero (or villain) of the
If everything came out it did not require any great effort of
prophecy to predict what the result would be. O'Hara would go.
Promptly. He would receive his marching orders within ten minutes of
the discovery of what he had done. He would be expelled twice over, so
to speak, once for breaking out at night—one of the most heinous
offences in the school code—and once for tarring the statue. Anything
that gave the school a bad name in the town was a crime in the eyes of
the powers, and this was such a particularly flagrant case. Yes, there
was no doubt of that. O'Hara would take the first train home without
waiting to pack up. Trevor knew his people well, and he could imagine
their feelings when the prodigal strolled into their midst—an old
Wrykinian malgre lui. As the philosopher said of falling off a
ladder, it is not the falling that matters: it is the sudden stopping
at the other end. It is not the being expelled that is so peculiarly
objectionable: it is the sudden homecoming. With this gloomy vision
before him, Trevor almost wavered. But the thought that the selection
of the team had nothing whatever to do with his personal feelings
strengthened him. He was simply a machine, devised to select the
fifteen best men in the school to meet Ripton. In his official capacity
of football captain he was not supposed to have any feelings. However,
he yielded in so far that he went to Clowes to ask his opinion.
Clowes, having heard everything and seen the letter, unhesitatingly
voted for the right course. If fifty mad Irishmen were to be expelled,
Barry must play against Ripton. He was the best man, and in he must go.
“That's what I thought,” said Trevor. “It's bad for O'Hara, though.”
Clowes remarked somewhat tritely that business was business.
“Besides,” he went on, “you're assuming that the thing this letter
hints at will really come off. I don't think it will. A man would have
to be such an awful blackguard to go as low as that. The least grain of
decency in him would stop him. I can imagine a man threatening to do it
as a piece of bluff—by the way, the letter doesn't actually say
anything of the sort, though I suppose it hints at it—but I can't
imagine anybody out of a melodrama doing it.”
“You can never tell,” said Trevor. He felt that this was but an
outside chance. The forbearance of one's antagonist is but a poor thing
to trust to at the best of times.
“Are you going to tell O'Hara?” asked Clowes.
“I don't see the good. Would you?”
“No. He can't do anything, and it would only give him a bad time.
There are pleasanter things, I should think, than going on from day to
day not knowing whether you're going to be sacked or not within the
next twelve hours. Don't tell him.”
“I won't. And Barry plays against Ripton.”
“Certainly. He's the best man.”
“I'm going over to Seymour's now,” said Trevor, after a pause, “to
see Milton. We've drawn Seymour's in the next round of the
house-matches. I suppose you knew. I want to get it over before the
Ripton match, for several reasons. About half the fifteen are playing
on one side or the other, and it'll give them a good chance of getting
fit. Running and passing is all right, but a good, hard game's the
thing for putting you into form. And then I was thinking that, as the
side that loses, whichever it is—”
“Seymour's, of course.”
“Hope so. Well, they're bound to be a bit sick at losing, so they'll
play up all the harder on Saturday to console themselves for losing the
“My word, what strategy!” said Clowes. “You think of everything.
When do you think of playing it, then?”
“Wednesday struck me as a good day. Don't you think so?”
“It would do splendidly. It'll be a good match. For all practical
purposes, of course, it's the final. If we beat Seymour's, I don't
think the others will trouble us much.”
There was just time to see Milton before lock-up. Trevor ran across
to Seymour's, and went up to his study.
“Come in,” said Milton, in answer to his knock.
Trevor went in, and stood surprised at the difference in the look of
the place since the last time he had visited it. The walls, once
covered with photographs, were bare. Milton, seated before the fire,
was ruefully contemplating what looked like a heap of waste cardboard.
Trevor recognised the symptoms. He had had experience.
“You don't mean to say they've been at you, too!” he cried.
Milton's normally cheerful face was thunderous and gloomy.
“Yes. I was thinking what I'd like to do to the man who ragged it.”
“It's the League again, I suppose?”
Milton looked surprised.
“Again?” he said, “where did you hear of the League?
This is the first time I've heard of its existence, whatever it is.
What is the confounded thing, and why on earth have they played the
fool here? What's the meaning of this bally rot?”
He exhibited one of the variety of cards of which Trevor had already
seen two specimens. Trevor explained briefly the style and nature of
the League, and mentioned that his study also had been wrecked.
“Your study? Why, what have they got against you?”
“I don't know,” said Trevor. Nothing was to be gained by speaking of
the letters he had received.
“Did they cut up your photographs?”
“I tell you what it is, Trevor, old chap,” said Milton, with great
solemnity, “there's a lunatic in the school. That's what I make of it.
A lunatic whose form of madness is wrecking studies.”
“But the same chap couldn't have done yours and mine. It must have
been a Donaldson's fellow who did mine, and one of your chaps who did
yours and Mill's.”
“Mill's? By Jove, of course. I never thought of that. That was the
League, too, I suppose?”
“Yes. One of those cards was tied to a chair, but Clowes took it
away before anybody saw it.”
Milton returned to the details of the disaster.
“Was there any ink spilt in your room?”
“Pints,” said Trevor, shortly. The subject was painful.
“So there was here,” said Milton, mournfully. “Gallons.”
There was silence for a while, each pondering over his wrongs.
“Gallons,” said Milton again. “I was ass enough to keep a large pot
full of it here, and they used it all, every drop. You never saw such a
Trevor said he had seen one similar spectacle.
“And my photographs! You remember those photographs I showed you?
All ruined. Slit across with a knife. Some torn in half. I wish I knew
who did that.”
Trevor said he wished so, too.
“There was one of Mrs Patrick Campbell,” Milton continued in
heartrending tones, “which was torn into sixteen pieces. I counted
them. There they are on the mantelpiece. And there was one of Little
Tich” (here he almost broke down), “which was so covered with ink that
for half an hour I couldn't recognise it. Fact.”
Trevor nodded sympathetically.
“Yes,” said Milton. “Soaked.”
There was another silence. Trevor felt it would be almost an outrage
to discuss so prosaic a topic as the date of a house-match with one so
broken up. Yet time was flying, and lock-up was drawing near.
“Are you willing to play—” he began.
“I feel as if I could never play again,” interrupted Milton. “You'd
hardly believe the amount of blotting-paper I've used today. It must
have been a lunatic, Dick, old man.”
When Milton called Trevor “Dick", it was a sign that he was moved.
When he called him “Dick, old man", it gave evidence of an internal
upheaval without parallel.
“Why, who else but a lunatic would get up in the night to wreck
another chap's study? All this was done between eleven last night and
seven this morning. I turned in at eleven, and when I came down here
again at seven the place was a wreck. It must have been a lunatic.”
“How do you account for the printed card from the League?”
Milton murmured something about madmen's cunning and diverting
suspicion, and relapsed into silence. Trevor seized the opportunity to
make the proposal he had come to make, that Donaldson's v.
Seymour's should be played on the following Wednesday.
Milton agreed listlessly.
“Just where you're standing,” he said, “I found a photo-graph of Sir
Henry Irving so slashed about that I thought at first it was Huntley
Wright in San Toy.”
“Start at two-thirty sharp,” said Trevor.
“I had seventeen of Edna May,” continued the stricken Seymourite,
monotonously. “In various attitudes. All destroyed.”
“On the first fifteen ground, of course,” said Trevor. “I'll get
Aldridge to referee. That'll suit you, I suppose?”
“All right. Anything you like. Just by the fireplace I found the
remains of Arthur Roberts in H.M.S. Irresponsible. And part of
Seymour Hicks. Under the table—”
XIV. THE WHITE FIGURE
“Suppose,” said Shoeblossom to Barry, as they were walking over to
school on the morning following the day on which Milton's study had
passed through the hands of the League, “suppose you thought somebody
had done something, but you weren't quite certain who, but you knew it
was some one, what would you do?”
“What on earth do you mean?” inquired Barry.
“I was trying to make an A.B. case of it,” explained Shoeblossom.
“What's an A.B. case?”
“I don't know,” admitted Shoeblossom, frankly. “But it comes in a
book of Stevenson's. I think it must mean a sort of case where you call
everyone A. and B. and don't tell their names.”
“Well, go ahead.”
“It's about Milton's study.”
“What! what about it?”
“Well, you see, the night it was ragged I was sitting in my study
with a dark lantern—”
Shoeblossom proceeded to relate the moving narrative of his
night-walking adventure. He dwelt movingly on his state of mind when
standing behind the door, waiting for Mr Seymour to come in and find
him. He related with appropriate force the hair-raising episode of the
weird white figure. And then he came to the conclusions he had since
drawn (in calmer moments) from that apparition's movements.
“You see,” he said, “I saw it coming out of Milton's study, and that
must have been about the time the study was ragged. And it went into
Rigby's dorm. So it must have been a chap in that dorm, who did it.”
Shoeblossom was quite clever at rare intervals. Even Barry, whose
belief in his sanity was of the smallest, was compelled to admit that
here, at any rate, he was talking sense.
“What would you do?” asked Shoeblossom.
“Tell Milton, of course,” said Barry.
“But he'd give me beans for being out of the dorm, after
This was a distinct point to be considered. The attitude of Barry
towards Milton was different from that of Shoeblossom. Barry regarded
him—through having played with him in important matches—as a good
sort of fellow who had always behaved decently to him. Leather-Twigg,
on the other hand, looked on him with undisguised apprehension, as one
in authority who would give him lines the first time he came into
contact with him, and cane him if he ever did it again. He had a
decided disinclination to see Milton on any pretext whatever.
“Suppose I tell him?” suggested Barry.
“You'll keep my name dark?” said Shoeblossom, alarmed.
Barry said he would make an A.B. case of it.
After school he went to Milton's study, and found him still brooding
over its departed glories.
“I say, Milton, can I speak to you for a second?”
“Hullo, Barry. Come in.”
Barry came in.
“I had forty-three photographs,” began Milton, without preamble.
“All destroyed. And I've no money to buy any more. I had seventeen of
Barry, feeling that he was expected to say something, said, “By
“In various positions,” continued Milton. “All ruined.”
“Not really?” said Barry.
“There was one of Little Tich—”
But Barry felt unequal to playing the part of chorus any longer. It
was all very thrilling, but, if Milton was going to run through the
entire list of his destroyed photographs, life would be too short for
conversation on any other topic.
“I say, Milton,” he said, “it was about that that I came. I'm
Milton sat up.
“It wasn't you who did this, was it?”
“No, no,” said Barry, hastily.
“Oh, I thought from your saying you were sorry—”
“I was going to say I thought I could put you on the track of the
chap who did do it—”
For the second time since the interview began Milton sat up.
“Go on,” he said.
“—But I'm sorry I can't give you the name of the fellow who told me
“That doesn't matter,” said Milton. “Tell me the name of the fellow
who did it. That'll satisfy me.”
“I'm afraid I can't do that, either.”
“Have you any idea what you can do?” asked Milton,
“I can tell you something which may put you on the right track.”
“That'll do for a start. Well?”
“Well, the chap who told me—I'll call him A.; I'm going to make an
A.B. case of it—was coming out of his study at about one o'clock in
“What the deuce was he doing that for?”
“Because he wanted to go back to bed,” said Barry.
“About time, too. Well?”
“As he was going past your study, a white figure emerged—”
“I should strongly advise you, young Barry,” said Milton, gravely,
“not to try and rot me in any way. You're a jolly good wing
three-quarters, but you shouldn't presume on it. I'd slay the Old Man
himself if he rotted me about this business.”
Barry was quite pained at this sceptical attitude in one whom he was
going out of his way to assist.
“I'm not rotting,” he protested. “This is all quite true.”
“Well, go on. You were saying something about white figures
“Not white figures. A white figure,” corrected Barry. “It came out
of your study—”
“—And vanished through the wall?”
“It went into Rigby's dorm.,” said Barry, sulkily. It was maddening
to have an exclusive bit of news treated in this way.
“Did it, by Jove!” said Milton, interested at last. “Are you sure
the chap who told you wasn't pulling your leg? Who was it told you?”
“I promised him not to say.”
“Out with it, young Barry.”
“I won't,” said Barry.
“You aren't going to tell me?”
Milton gave up the point with much cheerfulness. He liked Barry, and
he realised that he had no right to try and make him break his promise.
“That's all right,” he said. “Thanks very much, Barry. This may be
“I'd tell you his name if I hadn't promised, you know, Milton.”
“It doesn't matter,” said Milton. “It's not important.”
“Oh, there was one thing I forgot. It was a biggish chap the fellow
“How big! My size?”
“Not quite so tall, I should think. He said he was about Seymour's
“Thanks. That's worth knowing. Thanks very much, Barry.”
When his visitor had gone, Milton proceeded to unearth one of the
printed lists of the house which were used for purposes of roll-call.
He meant to find out who were in Rigby's dormitory. He put a tick
against the names. There were eighteen of them. The next thing was to
find out which of them was about the same height as Mr Seymour. It was
a somewhat vague description, for the house-master stood about five
feet nine or eight, and a good many of the dormitory were that height,
or near it. At last, after much brain-work, he reduced the number of
“possibles” to seven. These seven were Rigby himself, Linton,
Rand-Brown, Griffith, Hunt, Kershaw, and Chapple. Rigby might be
scratched off the list at once. He was one of Milton's greatest
friends. Exeunt also Griffith, Hunt, and Kershaw. They were mild
youths, quite incapable of any deed of devilry. There remained,
therefore, Chapple, Linton, and Rand-Brown. Chapple was a boy who was
invariably late for breakfast. The inference was that he was not likely
to forego his sleep for the purpose of wrecking studies. Chapple might
disappear from the list. Now there were only Linton and Rand-Brown to
be considered. His suspicions fell on Rand-Brown. Linton was the last
person, he thought, to do such a low thing. He was a cheerful,
rollicking individual, who was popular with everyone and seemed to like
everyone. He was not an orderly member of the house, certainly, and on
several occasions Milton had found it necessary to drop on him heavily
for creating disturbances. But he was not the sort that bears malice.
He took it all in the way of business, and came up smiling after it was
over. No, everything pointed to Rand-Brown. He and Milton had never got
on well together, and quite recently they had quarrelled openly over
the former's play in the Day's match. Rand-Brown must be the man. But
Milton was sensible enough to feel that so far he had no real evidence
whatever. He must wait.
On the following afternoon Seymour's turned out to play Donaldson's.
The game, like most house-matches, was played with the utmost
keenness. Both teams had good three-quarters, and they attacked in
turn. Seymour's had the best of it forward, where Milton was playing a
great game, but Trevor in the centre was the best outside on the field,
and pulled up rush after rush. By half-time neither side had scored.
After half-time Seymour's, playing downhill, came away with a rush
to the Donaldsonites' half, and Rand-Brown, with one of the few decent
runs he had made in good class football that term, ran in on the left.
Milton took the kick, but failed, and Seymour's led by three points.
For the next twenty minutes nothing more was scored. Then, when five
minutes more of play remained, Trevor gave Clowes an easy opening, and
Clowes sprinted between the posts. The kick was an easy one, and what
sporting reporters term “the major points” were easily added.
When there are five more minutes to play in an important
house-match, and one side has scored a goal and the other a try, play
is apt to become spirited. Both teams were doing all they knew. The
ball came out to Barry on the right. Barry's abilities as a
three-quarter rested chiefly on the fact that he could dodge well. This
eel-like attribute compensated for a certain lack of pace. He was past
the Donaldson's three-quarters in an instant, and running for the line,
with only the back to pass, and with Clowes in hot pursuit. Another
wriggle took him past the back, but it also gave Clowes time to catch
him up. Clowes was a far faster runner, and he got to him just as he
reached the twenty-five line. They came down together with a crash,
Clowes on top, and as they fell the whistle blew.
“No-side,” said Mr. Aldridge, the master who was refereeing.
Clowes got up.
“All over,” he said. “Jolly good game. Hullo, what's up?”
For Barry seemed to be in trouble.
“You might give us a hand up,” said the latter. “I believe I've
twisted my beastly ankle or something.”
XV. A SPRAIN AND A VACANT PLACE
“I say,” said Clowes, helping him up, “I'm awfully sorry. Did I do
it? How did it happen?”
Barry was engaged in making various attempts at standing on the
injured leg. The process seemed to be painful.
“Shall I get a stretcher or anything? Can you walk?”
“If you'd help me over to the house, I could manage all right. What
a beastly nuisance! It wasn't your fault a bit. Only you tackled me
when I was just trying to swerve, and my ankle was all twisted.”
Drummond came up, carrying Barry's blazer and sweater.
“Hullo, Barry,” he said, “what's up? You aren't crocked?”
“Something gone wrong with my ankle. That my blazer? Thanks. Coming
over to the house? Clowes was just going to help me over.”
Clowes asked a Donaldson's junior, who was lurking near at hand, to
fetch his blazer and carry it over to the house, and then made his way
with Drummond and the disabled Barry to Seymour's. Having arrived at
the senior day-room, they deposited the injured three-quarter in a
chair, and sent M'Todd, who came in at the moment, to fetch the doctor.
Dr Oakes was a big man with a breezy manner, the sort of doctor who
hits you with the force of a sledge-hammer in the small ribs, and asks
you if you felt anything then. It was on this principle that he
acted with regard to Barry's ankle. He seized it in both hands and gave
it a wrench.
“Did that hurt?” he inquired anxiously.
Barry turned white, and replied that it did.
Dr Oakes nodded wisely.
“Ah! H'm! Just so. 'Myes. Ah.”
“Is it bad?” asked Drummond, awed by these mystic utterances.
“My dear boy,” replied the doctor, breezily, “it is always bad when
one twists one's ankle.”
“How long will it do me out of footer?” asked Barry.
“How long? How long? How long? Why, fortnight. Fortnight,” said the
“Then I shan't be able to play next Saturday?”
“Next Saturday? Next Saturday? My dear boy, if you can put your foot
to the ground by next Saturday, you may take it as evidence that the
age of miracles is not past. Next Saturday, indeed! Ha, ha.”
It was not altogether his fault that he treated the matter with such
brutal levity. It was a long time since he had been at school, and he
could not quite realise what it meant to Barry not to be able to play
against Ripton. As for Barry, he felt that he had never loathed and
detested any one so thoroughly as he loathed and detested Dr Oakes at
“I don't see where the joke comes in,” said Clowes, when he had
gone. “I bar that man.”
“He's a beast,” said Drummond. “I can't understand why they let a
tout like that be the school doctor.”
Barry said nothing. He was too sore for words.
What Dr Oakes said to his wife that evening was: “Over at the
school, my dear, this afternoon. This afternoon. Boy with a twisted
ankle. Nice young fellow. Very much put out when I told him he could
not play football for a fortnight. But I chaffed him, and cheered him
up in no time. I cheered him up in no time, my dear.”
“I'm sure you did, dear,” said Mrs Oakes. Which shows how
differently the same thing may strike different people. Barry certainly
did not look as if he had been cheered up when Clowes left the study
and went over to tell Trevor that he would have to find a substitute
for his right wing three-quarter against Ripton.
Trevor had left the field without noticing Barry's accident, and he
was tremendously pleased at the result of the game.
“Good man,” he said, when Clowes came in, “you saved the match.”
“And lost the Ripton match probably,” said Clowes, gloomily.
“What do you mean?”
“That last time I brought down Barry I crocked him. He's in his
study now with a sprained ankle. I've just come from there. Oakes has
seen him, and says he mustn't play for a fortnight.”
“Great Scott!” said Trevor, blankly. “What on earth shall we do?”
“Why not move Strachan up to the wing, and put somebody else back
instead of him? Strachan is a good wing.”
Trevor shook his head.
“No. There's nobody good enough to play back for the first. We
mustn't risk it.”
“Then I suppose it must be Rand-Brown?”
“I suppose so.”
“He may do better than we think. He played quite a decent game
today. That try he got wasn't half a bad one.”
“He'd be all right if he didn't funk. But perhaps he wouldn't funk
against Ripton. In a match like that anybody would play up. I'll ask
Milton and Allardyce about it.”
“I shouldn't go to Milton today,” said Clowes. “I fancy he'll want a
night's rest before he's fit to talk to. He must be a bit sick about
this match. I know he expected Seymour's to win.”
He went out, but came back almost immediately.
“I say,” he said, “there's one thing that's just occurred to me.
This'll please the League. I mean, this ankle business of Barry's.”
The same idea had struck Trevor. It was certainly a respite. But he
regretted it for all that. What he wanted was to beat Ripton, and
Barry's absence would weaken the team. However, it was good in its way,
and cleared the atmosphere for the time. The League would hardly do
anything with regard to the carrying out of their threat while Barry
was on the sick-list.
Next day, having given him time to get over the bitterness of defeat
in accordance with Clowes' thoughtful suggestion, Trevor called on
Milton, and asked him what his opinion was on the subject of the
inclusion of Rand-Brown in the first fifteen in place of Barry,
“He's the next best man,” he added, in defence of the proposal.
“I suppose so,” said Milton. “He'd better play, I suppose. There's
no one else.”
“Clowes thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to shove Strachan on the
wing, and put somebody else back.”
“Who is there to put?”
“Not good enough. No, it's better to be weakish on the wing than at
back. Besides, Rand-Brown may do all right. He played well against
“Yes,” said Trevor. “Study looks a bit better now,” he added, as he
was going, having looked round the room. “Still a bit bare, though.”
Milton sighed. “It will never be what it was.”
“Forty-three theatrical photographs want some replacing, of course,”
said Trevor. “But it isn't bad, considering.”
“Oh, mine's all right, except for the absence of photographs.”
“I say, Trevor.”
“Yes?” said Trevor, stopping at the door. Milton's voice had taken
on the tone of one who is about to disclose dreadful secrets.
“Would you like to know what I think?”
“Why, I'm pretty nearly sure who it was that ragged my study?”
“By Jove! What have you done to him?”
“Nothing as yet. I'm not quite sure of my man.”
“Who is the man?”
“By Jove! Clowes once said he thought Rand-Brown must be the
President of the League. But then, I don't see how you can account for
my study being wrecked. He was out on the field when it was done.”
“Why, the League, of course. You don't suppose he's the only man in
it? There must be a lot of them.”
“But what makes you think it was Rand-Brown?”
Milton told him the story of Shoeblossom, as Barry had told it to
him. The only difference was that Trevor listened without any of the
scepticism which Milton had displayed on hearing it. He was getting
excited. It all fitted in so neatly. If ever there was circumstantial
evidence against a man, here it was against Rand-Brown. Take the two
cases. Milton had quarrelled with him. Milton's study was wrecked “with
the compliments of the League”. Trevor had turned him out of the first
fifteen. Trevor's study was wrecked “with the compliments of the
League”. As Clowes had pointed out, the man with the most obvious
motive for not wishing Barry to play for the school was Rand-Brown. It
seemed a true bill.
“I shouldn't wonder if you're right,” he said, “but of course one
can't do anything yet. You want a lot more evidence. Anyhow, we must
play him against Ripton, I suppose. Which is his study? I'll go and
tell him now.”
Trevor knocked at the door of study Ten. Rand-Brown was sitting over
the fire, reading. He jumped up when he saw that it was Trevor who had
come in, and to his visitor it seemed that his face wore a guilty look.
“What do you want?” said Rand-Brown.
It was not the politest way of welcoming a visitor. It increased
Trevor's suspicions. The man was afraid. A great idea darted into his
mind. Why not go straight to the point and have it out with him here
and now? He had the League's letter about the bat in his pocket. He
would confront him with it and insist on searching the study there and
then. If Rand-Brown were really, as he suspected, the writer of the
letter, the bat must be in this room somewhere. Search it now, and he
would have no time to hide it. He pulled out the letter.
“I believe you wrote that,” he said.
Trevor was always direct.
Rand-Brown seemed to turn a little pale, but his voice when he
replied was quite steady.
“That's a lie,” he said.
“Then, perhaps,” said Trevor, “you wouldn't object to proving it.”
“By letting me search your study?”
“You don't believe my word?”
“Why should I? You don't believe mine.”
Rand-Brown made no comment on this remark.
“Was that what you came here for?” he asked.
“No,” said Trevor; “as a matter of fact, I came to tell you to turn
out for running and passing with the first tomorrow afternoon. You're
playing against Ripton on Saturday.”
Rand-Brown's attitude underwent a complete transformation at the
news. He became friendliness itself.
“All right,” he said. “I say, I'm sorry I said what I did about
lying. I was rather sick that you should think I wrote that rot you
showed me. I hope you don't mind.”
“Not a bit. Do you mind my searching your study?”
For a moment Rand-Brown looked vicious. Then he sat down with a
“Go on,” he said; “I see you don't believe me. Here are the keys if
you want them.”
Trevor thanked him, and took the keys. He opened every drawer and
examined the writing-desk. The bat was in none of these places. He
looked in the cupboards. No bat there.
“Like to take up the carpet?” inquired Rand-Brown.
“Search me if you like. Shall I turn out my pockets?”
“Yes, please,” said Trevor, to his surprise. He had not expected to
be taken literally.
Rand-Brown emptied them, but the bat was not there. Trevor turned to
“You've not looked inside the legs of the chairs yet,” said
Rand-Brown. “They may be hollow. There's no knowing.”
“It doesn't matter, thanks,” said Trevor. “Sorry for troubling you.
Don't forget tomorrow afternoon.”
And he went, with the very unpleasant feeling that he had been badly
XVI. THE RIPTON MATCH
It was a curious thing in connection with the matches between Ripton
and Wrykyn, that Ripton always seemed to be the bigger team. They
always had a gigantic pack of forwards, who looked capable of shoving a
hole through one of the pyramids. Possibly they looked bigger to the
Wrykinians than they really were. Strangers always look big on the
football field. When you have grown accustomed to a person's
appearance, he does not look nearly so large. Milton, for instance,
never struck anybody at Wrykyn as being particularly big for a school
forward, and yet today he was the heaviest man on the field by a
quarter of a stone. But, taken in the mass, the Ripton pack were far
heavier than their rivals. There was a legend current among the lower
forms at Wrykyn that fellows were allowed to stop on at Ripton till
they were twenty-five, simply to play football. This is scarcely likely
to have been based on fact. Few lower form legends are.
Jevons, the Ripton captain, through having played opposite Trevor
for three seasons—he was the Ripton left centre-three-quarter—had
come to be quite an intimate of his. Trevor had gone down with Milton
and Allardyce to meet the team at the station, and conduct them up to
“How have you been getting on since Christmas?” asked Jevons.
“Pretty well. We've lost Paget, I suppose you know?”
“That was the fast man on the wing, wasn't it?”
“Well, we've lost a man, too.”
“Oh, yes, that red-haired forward. I remember him.”
“It ought to make us pretty even. What's the ground like?”
“Bit greasy, I should think. We had some rain late last night.”
The ground was a bit greasy. So was the ball. When Milton
kicked off up the hill with what wind there was in his favour, the
outsides of both teams found it difficult to hold the ball. Jevons
caught it on his twenty-five line, and promptly handed it forward. The
first scrum was formed in the heart of the enemy's country.
A deep, swelling roar from either touch-line greeted the school's
advantage. A feature of a big match was always the shouting. It rarely
ceased throughout the whole course of the game, the monotonous but
impressive sound of five hundred voices all shouting the same word. It
was worth hearing. Sometimes the evenness of the noise would change to
an excited crescendo as a school three-quarter got off, or the
school back pulled up the attack with a fine piece of defence.
Sometimes the shouting would give place to clapping when the school was
being pressed and somebody had found touch with a long kick. But mostly
the man on the ropes roared steadily and without cessation, and with
the full force of his lungs, the word “Wrykyn!“
The scrum was a long one. For two minutes the forwards heaved and
strained, now one side, now the other, gaining a few inches. The Wrykyn
pack were doing all they knew to heel, but their opponents' superior
weight was telling. Ripton had got the ball, and were keeping it. Their
game was to break through with it and rush. Then suddenly one of their
forwards kicked it on, and just at that moment the opposition of the
Wrykyn pack gave way, and the scrum broke up. The ball came out on the
Wrykyn side, and Allardyce whipped it out to Deacon, who was playing
half with him.
“Ball's out,” cried the Ripton half who was taking the scrum. “Break
up. It's out.”
And his colleague on the left darted across to stop Trevor, who had
taken Deacon's pass, and was running through on the right.
Trevor ran splendidly. He was a three-quarter who took a lot of
stopping when he once got away. Jevons and the Ripton half met him
almost simultaneously, and each slackened his pace for the fraction of
a second, to allow the other to tackle. As they hesitated, Trevor
passed them. He had long ago learned that to go hard when you have once
started is the thing that pays.
He could see that Rand-Brown was racing up for the pass, and, as he
reached the back, he sent the ball to him, waist-high. Then the back
got to him, and he came down with a thud, with a vision, seen from the
corner of his eye, of the ball bounding forward out of the wing
three-quarter's hands into touch. Rand-Brown had bungled the pass in
the old familiar way, and lost a certain try.
The touch-judge ran up with his flag waving in the air, but the
referee had other views.
“Knocked on inside,” he said; “scrum here.”
“Here” was, Trevor saw with unspeakable disgust, some three yards
from the goal-line. Rand-Brown had only had to take the pass, and he
must have scored.
The Ripton forwards were beginning to find their feet better now,
and they carried the scrum. A truculent-looking warrior in one of those
ear-guards which are tied on by strings underneath the chin, and which
add fifty per cent to the ferocity of a forward's appearance, broke
away with the ball at his feet, and swept down the field with the rest
of the pack at his heels. Trevor arrived too late to pull up the rush,
which had gone straight down the right touch-line, and it was not till
Strachan fell on the ball on the Wrykyn twenty-five line that the
danger ceased to threaten.
Even now the school were in a bad way. The enemy were pressing
keenly, and a real piece of combination among their three-quarters
would only too probably end in a try. Fortunately for them, Allardyce
and Deacon were a better pair of halves than the couple they were
marking. Also, the Ripton forwards heeled slowly, and Allardyce had
generally got his man safely buried in the mud before he could pass.
He was just getting round for the tenth time to bottle his opponent
as before, when he slipped. When the ball came out he was on all fours,
and the Ripton exponent, finding to his great satisfaction that he had
not been tackled, whipped the ball out on the left, where a wing
This was the man Rand-Brown was supposed to be marking, and once
again did Barry's substitute prove of what stuff his tackling powers
were made. After his customary moment of hesitation, he had at the
Riptonian's neck. The Riptonian handed him off in a manner that
recalled the palmy days of the old Prize Ring—handing off was always
slightly vigorous in the Ripton v. Wrykyn match—and dashed over
the line in the extreme corner.
There was anguish on the two touch-lines. Trevor looked savage, but
made no comment. The team lined up in silence.
It takes a very good kick to convert a try from the touch-line.
Jevons' kick was a long one, but it fell short. Ripton led by a try to
A few more scrums near the halfway line, and a fine attempt at a
dropped goal by the Ripton back, and it was half-time, with the score
During the interval there were lemons. An excellent thing is your
lemon at half-time. It cools the mouth, quenches the thirst, stimulates
the desire to be at them again, and improves the play.
Possibly the Wrykyn team had been happier in their choice of lemons
on this occasion, for no sooner had the game been restarted than Clowes
ran the whole length of the field, dodged through the three-quarters,
punted over the back's head, and scored a really brilliant try, of the
sort that Paget had been fond of scoring in the previous term. The man
on the touch-line brightened up wonderfully, and began to try and
calculate the probable score by the end of the game, on the assumption
that, as a try had been scored in the first two minutes, ten would be
scored in the first twenty, and so on.
But the calculations were based on false premises. After Strachan
had failed to convert, and the game had been resumed with the score at
one try all, play settled down in the centre, and neither side could
pierce the other's defence. Once Jevons got off for Ripton, but Trevor
brought him down safely, and once Rand-Brown let his man through, as
before, but Strachan was there to meet him, and the effort came to
nothing. For Wrykyn, no one did much except tackle. The forwards were
beaten by the heavier pack, and seldom let the ball out. Allardyce
intercepted a pass when about ten minutes of play remained, and ran
through to the back. But the back, who was a capable man and in his
third season in the team, laid him low scientifically before he could
reach the line.
Altogether it looked as if the match were going to end in a draw.
The Wrykyn defence, with the exception of Rand-Brown, was too good to
be penetrated, while the Ripton forwards, by always getting the ball in
the scrums, kept them from attacking. It was about five minutes from
the end of the game when the Ripton right centre-three-quarter, in
trying to punt across to the wing, miskicked and sent the ball straight
into the hands of Trevor's colleague in the centre. Before his man
could get round to him he had slipped through, with Trevor backing him
up. The back, as a good back should, seeing two men coming at him, went
for the man with the ball. But by the time he had brought him down, the
ball was no longer where it had originally been. Trevor had got it, and
was running in between the posts.
This time Strachan put on the extra two points without difficulty.
Ripton played their hardest for the remaining minutes, but without
result. The game ended with Wrykyn a goal ahead—a goal and a try to a
try. For the second time in one season the Ripton match had ended in a
victory—a thing it was very rarely in the habit of doing.
* * * * *
The senior day-room at Seymour's rejoiced considerably that night.
The air was dark with flying cushions, and darker still, occasionally,
when the usual humorist turned the gas out. Milton was out, for he had
gone to the dinner which followed the Ripton match, and the man in
command of the house in his absence was Mill. And the senior day-room
had no respect whatever for Mill.
Barry joined in the revels as well as his ankle would let him, but
he was not feeling happy. The disappointment of being out of the first
still weighed on him.
At about eight, when things were beginning to grow really lively,
and the noise seemed likely to crack the window at any moment, the door
was flung open and Milton stalked in.
“What's all this row?” he inquired. “Stop it at once.”
As a matter of fact, the row had stopped—directly he came
“Is Barry here?” he asked.
“Yes,” said that youth.
“Congratulate you on your first, Barry. We've just had a meeting and
given you your colours. Trevor told me to tell you.”
XVII. THE WATCHERS IN THE VAULT
For the next three seconds you could have heard a cannonball drop.
And that was equivalent, in the senior day-room at Seymour's, to a dead
silence. Barry stood in the middle of the room leaning on the stick on
which he supported life, now that his ankle had been injured, and
turned red and white in regular rotation, as the magnificence of the
news came home to him.
Then the small voice of Linton was heard.
“That'll be six d. I'll trouble you for, young Sammy,” said Linton.
For he had betted an even sixpence with Master Samuel Menzies that
Barry would get his first fifteen cap this term, and Barry had got it.
A great shout went up from every corner of the room. Barry was one
of the most popular members of the house, and every one had been sorry
for him when his sprained ankle had apparently put him out of the
running for the last cap.
“Good old Barry,” said Drummond, delightedly. Barry thanked him in a
Every one crowded in to shake his hand. Barry thanked then all in a
And then the senior day-room, in spite of the fact that Milton had
returned, gave itself up to celebrating the occasion with one of the
most deafening uproars that had ever been heard even in that factory of
noise. A babel of voices discussed the match of the afternoon, each
trying to outshout the other. In one corner Linton was beating wildly
on a biscuit-tin with part of a broken chair. Shoeblossom was busy in
the opposite corner executing an intricate step-dance on somebody
else's box. M'Todd had got hold of the red-hot poker, and was burning
his initials in huge letters on the seat of a chair. Every one, in
short, was enjoying himself, and it was not until an advanced hour that
comparative quiet was restored. It was a great evening for Barry, the
best he had ever experienced.
Clowes did not learn the news till he saw it on the notice-board, on
the following Monday. When he saw it he whistled softly.
“I see you've given Barry his first,” he said to Trevor, when they
met. “Rather sensational.”
“Milton and Allardyce both thought he deserved it. If he'd been
playing instead of Rand-Brown, they wouldn't have scored at all
probably, and we should have got one more try.”
“That's all right,” said Clowes. “He deserves it right enough, and
I'm jolly glad you've given it him. But things will begin to move now,
don't you think? The League ought to have a word to say about the
business. It'll be a facer for them.”
“Do you remember,” asked Trevor, “saying that you thought it must be
Rand-Brown who wrote those letters?”
“Well, Milton had an idea that it was Rand-Brown who ragged his
“What made him think that?”
Trevor related the Shoeblossom incident.
Clowes became quite excited.
“Then Rand-Brown must be the man,” he said. “Why don't you go and
tackle him? Probably he's got the bat in his study.”
“It's not in his study,” said Trevor, “because I looked everywhere
for it, and got him to turn out his pockets, too. And yet I'll swear he
knows something about it. One thing struck me as a bit suspicious. I
went straight into his study and showed him that last letter—about the
bat, you know, and accused him of writing it. Now, if he hadn't been in
the business somehow, he wouldn't have understood what was meant by
their saying 'the bat you lost'. It might have been an ordinary
cricket-bat for all he knew. But he offered to let me search the study.
It didn't strike me as rum till afterwards. Then it seemed fishy. What
do you think?”
Clowes thought so too, but admitted that he did not see of what use
the suspicion was going to be. Whether Rand-Brown knew anything about
the affair or not, it was quite certain that the bat was not with him.
O'Hara, meanwhile, had decided that the time had come for him to
resume his detective duties. Moriarty agreed with him, and they
resolved that that night they would patronise the vault instead of the
gymnasium, and take a holiday as far as their boxing was concerned.
There was plenty of time before the Aldershot competition.
Lock-up was still at six, so at a quarter to that hour they slipped
down into the vault, and took up their position.
A quarter of an hour passed. The lock-up bell sounded faintly.
Moriarty began to grow tired.
“Is it worth it?” he said, “an' wouldn't they have come before, if
they meant to come?”
“We'll give them another quarter of an hour,” said O'Hara. “After
“Sh!” whispered Moriarty.
The door had opened. They could see a figure dimly outlined in the
semi-darkness. Footsteps passed down into the vault, and there came a
sound as if the unknown had cannoned into a chair, followed by a sharp
intake of breath, expressive of pain. A scraping sound, and a flash of
light, and part of the vault was lit by a candle. O'Hara caught a
glimpse of the unknown's face as he rose from lighting the candle, but
it was not enough to enable him to recognise him. The candle was
standing on a chair, and the light it gave was too feeble to reach the
face of any one not on a level with it.
The unknown began to drag chairs out into the neighbourhood of the
light. O'Hara counted six.
The sixth chair had scarcely been placed in position when the door
opened again. Six other figures appeared in the opening one after the
other, and bolted into the vault like rabbits into a burrow. The last
of them closed the door after them.
O'Hara nudged Moriarty, and Moriarty nudged O'Hara; but neither made
a sound. They were not likely to be seen—the blackness of the vault
was too Egyptian for that—but they were so near to the chairs that the
least whisper must have been heard. Not a word had proceeded from the
occupants of the chairs so far. If O'Hara's suspicion was correct, and
this was really the League holding a meeting, their methods were more
secret than those of any other secret society in existence. Even the
Nihilists probably exchanged a few remarks from time to time, when they
met together to plot. But these men of mystery never opened their lips.
It puzzled O'Hara.
The light of the candle was obscured for a moment, and a sound of
puffing came from the darkness.
O'Hara nudged Moriarty again.
“Smoking!” said the nudge.
Moriarty nudged O'Hara.
“Smoking it is!” was the meaning of the movement.
A strong smell of tobacco showed that the diagnosis had been a true
one. Each of the figures in turn lit his pipe at the candle, and sat
back, still in silence. It could not have been very pleasant, smoking
in almost pitch darkness, but it was breaking rules, which was probably
the main consideration that swayed the smokers. They puffed away
steadily, till the two Irishmen were wrapped about in invisible clouds.
Then a strange thing happened. I know that I am infringing copyright
in making that statement, but it so exactly suits the occurrence, that
perhaps Mr Rider Haggard will not object. It was a strange thing
A rasping voice shattered the silence.
“You boys down there,” said the voice, “come here immediately. Come
here, I say.”
It was the well-known voice of Mr Robert Dexter, O'Hara and
Moriarty's beloved house-master.
The two Irishmen simultaneously clutched one another, each afraid
that the other would think—from force of long habit—that the
house-master was speaking to him. Both stood where they were. It was
the men of mystery and tobacco that Dexter was after, they thought.
But they were wrong. What had brought Dexter to the vault was the
fact that he had seen two boys, who looked uncommonly like O'Hara and
Moriarty, go down the steps of the vault at a quarter to six. He had
been doing his usual after-lock-up prowl on the junior gravel, to
intercept stragglers, and he had been a witness—from a distance of
fifty yards, in a very bad light—of the descent into the vault. He had
remained on the gravel ever since, in the hope of catching them as they
came up; but as they had not come up, he had determined to make the
first move himself. He had not seen the six unknowns go down, for, the
evening being chilly, he had paced up and down, and they had by a lucky
accident chosen a moment when his back was turned.
“Come up immediately,” he repeated.
Here a blast of tobacco-smoke rushed at him from the darkness. The
candle had been extinguished at the first alarm, and he had not
realised—though he had suspected it—that smoking had been going on.
A hurried whispering was in progress among the unknowns. Apparently
they saw that the game was up, for they picked their way towards the
As each came up the steps and passed him, Mr Dexter observed “Ha!”
and appeared to make a note of his name. The last of the six was just
leaving him after this process had been completed, when Mr Dexter
called him back.
“That is not all,” he said, suspiciously.
“Yes, sir,” said the last of the unknowns.
Neither of the Irishmen recognised the voice. Its owner was a
stranger to them.
“I tell you it is not,” snapped Mr Dexter. “You are concealing the
truth from me. O'Hara and Moriarty are down there—two boys in my own
house. I saw them go down there.”
“They had nothing to do with us, sir. We saw nothing of them.”
“I have no doubt,” said the house-master, “that you imagine that you
are doing a very chivalrous thing by trying to hide them, but you will
gain nothing by it. You may go.”
He came to the top of the steps, and it seemed as if he intended to
plunge into the darkness in search of the suspects. But, probably
realising the futility of such a course, he changed his mind, and
delivered an ultimatum from the top step.
“O'Hara and Moriarty.”
“O'Hara and Moriarty, I know perfectly well that you are down there.
Come up immediately.”
Dignified silence from the vault.
“Well, I shall wait here till you do choose to come up. You would be
well advised to do so immediately. I warn you you will not tire me
He turned, and the door slammed behind him.
“What'll we do?” whispered Moriarty. It was at last safe to whisper.
“Wait,” said O'Hara, “I'm thinking.”
O'Hara thought. For many minutes he thought in vain. At last there
came flooding back into his mind a memory of the days of his faghood.
It was after that that he had been groping all the time. He remembered
now. Once in those days there had been an unexpected function in the
middle of term. There were needed for that function certain chairs. He
could recall even now his furious disgust when he and a select body of
fellow fags had been pounced upon by their form-master, and coerced
into forming a line from the junior block to the cloisters, for the
purpose of handing chairs. True, his form-master had stood ginger-beer
after the event, with princely liberality, but the labour was of the
sort that gallons of ginger-beer will not make pleasant. But he ceased
to regret the episode now. He had been at the extreme end of the
chair-handling chain. He had stood in a passage in the junior block,
just by the door that led to the masters' garden, and which—he
remembered—was never locked till late at night. And while he stood
there, a pair of hands—apparently without a body—had heaved up chair
after chair through a black opening in the floor. In other words, a
trap-door connected with the vault in which he now was.
He imparted these reminiscences of childhood to Moriarty. They set
off to search for the missing door, and, after wanderings and barkings
of shins too painful to relate, they found it. Moriarty lit a match.
The light fell on the trap-door, and their last doubts were at an end.
The thing opened inwards. The bolt was on their side, not in the
passage above them. To shoot the bolt took them one second, to climb
into the passage one minute. They stood at the side of the opening, and
dusted their clothes.
“Bedad!” said Moriarty, suddenly.
“Why, how are we to shut it?”
This was a problem that wanted some solving. Eventually they managed
it, O'Hara leaning over and fishing for it, while Moriarty held his
As luck would have it—and luck had stood by them well all
through—there was a bolt on top of the trap-door, as well as beneath
“Supposing that had been shot!” said O'Hara, as they fastened the
door in its place.
Moriarty did not care to suppose anything so unpleasant.
Mr Dexter was still prowling about on the junior gravel, when the
two Irishmen ran round and across the senior gravel to the gymnasium.
Here they put in a few minutes' gentle sparring, and then marched
boldly up to Mr Day (who happened to have looked in five minutes after
their arrival) and got their paper.
“What time did O'Hara and Moriarty arrive at the gymnasium?” asked
Mr Dexter of Mr Day next morning.
“O'Hara and Moriarty? Really, I can't remember. I know they left
at about a quarter to seven.”
That profound thinker, Mr Tony Weller, was never so correct as in
his views respecting the value of an alibi. There are few better
things in an emergency.
XVIII. O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF
It was Renford's turn next morning to get up and feed the ferrets.
Harvey had done it the day before.
Renford was not a youth who enjoyed early rising, but in the cause
of the ferrets he would have endured anything, so at six punctually he
slid out of bed, dressed quietly, so as not to disturb the rest of the
dormitory, and ran over to the vault. To his utter amazement he found
it locked. Such a thing had never been done before in the whole course
of his experience. He tugged at the handle, but not an inch or a
fraction of an inch would the door yield. The policy of the Open Door
had ceased to find favour in the eyes of the authorities.
A feeling of blank despair seized upon him. He thought of the dismay
of the ferrets when they woke up and realised that there was no chance
of breakfast for them. And then they would gradually waste away, and
some day somebody would go down to the vault to fetch chairs, and would
come upon two mouldering skeletons, and wonder what they had once been.
He almost wept at the vision so conjured up.
There was nobody about. Perhaps he might break in somehow. But then
there was nothing to get to work with. He could not kick the door down.
No, he must give it up, and the ferrets' breakfast-hour must be
postponed. Possibly Harvey might be able to think of something.
“Fed 'em?” inquired Harvey, when they met at breakfast.
“No, I couldn't.”
“Why on earth not? You didn't oversleep yourself?”
Renford poured his tale into his friend's shocked ears.
“My hat!” said Harvey, when he had finished, “what on earth are we
to do? They'll starve.”
Renford nodded mournfully.
“Whatever made them go and lock the door?” he said.
He seemed to think the authorities should have given him due notice
of such an action.
“You're sure they have locked it? It isn't only stuck or something?”
“I lugged at the handle for hours. But you can go and see for
yourself if you like.”
Harvey went, and, waiting till the coast was clear, attached himself
to the handle with a prehensile grasp, and put his back into one
strenuous tug. It was even as Renford had said. The door was locked
beyond possibility of doubt.
Renford and he went over to school that morning with long faces and
a general air of acute depression. It was perhaps fortunate for their
purpose that they did, for had their appearance been normal it might
not have attracted O'Hara's attention. As it was, the Irishman, meeting
them on the junior gravel, stopped and asked them what was wrong. Since
the adventure in the vault, he had felt an interest in Renford and
The two told their story in alternate sentences like the Strophe and
Antistrophe of a Greek chorus. (“Steichomuthics,” your Greek scholar
calls it, I fancy. Ha, yes! Just so.)
“So ye can't get in because they've locked the door, an' ye don't
know what to do about it?” said O'Hara, at the conclusion of the
Renford and Harvey informed him in chorus that that was the
state of the game up to present date.
“An' ye want me to get them out for you?”
Neither had dared to hope that he would go so far as this. What they
had looked for had been at the most a few thoughtful words of advice.
That such a master-strategist as O'Hara should take up their cause was
an unexampled piece of good luck.
“If you only would,” said Harvey.
“We should be most awfully obliged,” said Renford.
“Very well,” said O'Hara.
They thanked him profusely.
O'Hara replied that it would be a privilege.
He should be sorry, he said, to have anything happen to the ferrets.
Renford and Harvey went on into school feeling more cheerful. If the
ferrets could be extracted from their present tight corner, O'Hara was
the man to do it.
O'Hara had not made his offer of assistance in any spirit of doubt.
He was certain that he could do what he had promised. For it had not
escaped his memory that this was a Tuesday—in other words, a
mathematics morning up to the quarter to eleven interval. That meant,
as has been explained previously, that, while the rest of the school
were in the form-rooms, he would be out in the passage, if he cared to
be. There would be no witnesses to what he was going to do.
But, by that curious perversity of fate which is so often
noticeable, Mr Banks was in a peculiarly lamb-like and long-suffering
mood this morning. Actions for which O'Hara would on other days have
been expelled from the room without hope of return, today were greeted
with a mild “Don't do that, please, O'Hara,” or even the ridiculously
inadequate “O'Hara!” It was perfectly disheartening. O'Hara began to
ask himself bitterly what was the use of ragging at all if this was how
it was received. And the moments were flying, and his promise to
Renford and Harvey still remained unfulfilled.
He prepared for fresh efforts.
So desperate was he, that he even resorted to crude methods like the
throwing of paper balls and the dropping of books. And when your really
scientific ragger sinks to this, he is nearing the end of his tether.
O'Hara hated to be rude, but there seemed no help for it.
The striking of a quarter past ten improved his chances. It had been
privily agreed upon beforehand amongst the members of the class that at
a quarter past ten every one was to sneeze simultaneously. The noise
startled Mr Banks considerably. The angelic mood began to wear off. A
man may be long-suffering, but he likes to draw the line somewhere.
“Another exhibition like that,” he said, sharply, “and the class
stays in after school, O'Hara!”
“I said nothing, sir, really.”
“Boy, you made a cat-like noise with your mouth.”
“What sort of noise, sir?”
The form waited breathlessly. This peculiarly insidious question had
been invented for mathematical use by one Sandys, who had left at the
end of the previous summer. It was but rarely that the master increased
the gaiety of nations by answering the question in the manner desired.
Mr Banks, off his guard, fell into the trap.
“A noise like this,” he said curtly, and to the delighted audience
came the melodious sound of a “Mi-aou", which put O'Hara's effort
completely in the shade, and would have challenged comparison with the
war-cry of the stoutest mouser that ever trod a tile.
A storm of imitations arose from all parts of the room. Mr Banks
turned pink, and, going straight to the root of the disturbance,
forthwith evicted O'Hara.
O'Hara left with the satisfying feeling that his duty had been done.
Mr Banks' room was at the top of the middle block. He ran softly
down the stairs at his best pace. It was not likely that the master
would come out into the passage to see if he was still there, but it
might happen, and it would be best to run as few risks as possible.
He sprinted over to the junior block, raised the trap-door, and
jumped down. He knew where the ferrets had been placed, and had no
difficulty in finding them. In another minute he was in the passage
again, with the trap-door bolted behind him.
He now asked himself—what should he do with them? He must find a
safe place, or his labours would have been in vain.
Behind the fives-court, he thought, would be the spot. Nobody ever
went there. It meant a run of three hundred yards there and the same
distance back, and there was more than a chance that he might be seen
by one of the Powers. In which case he might find it rather hard to
explain what he was doing in the middle of the grounds with a couple of
ferrets in his possession when the hands of the clock pointed to twenty
minutes to eleven.
But the odds were against his being seen. He risked it.
When the bell rang for the quarter to eleven interval the ferrets
were in their new home, happily discussing a piece of meat—Renford's
contribution, held over from the morning's meal,—and O'Hara, looking
as if he had never left the passage for an instant, was making his way
through the departing mathematical class to apologise handsomely to Mr
Banks—as was his invariable custom—for his disgraceful behaviour
during the morning's lesson.
XIX. THE MAYOR'S VISIT
School prefects at Wrykyn did weekly essays for the headmaster.
Those who had got their scholarships at the 'Varsity, or who were going
up in the following year, used to take their essays to him after school
and read them to him—an unpopular and nerve-destroying practice, akin
to suicide. Trevor had got his scholarship in the previous November. He
was due at the headmaster's private house at six o'clock on the present
Tuesday. He was looking forward to the ordeal not without apprehension.
The essay subject this week had been “One man's meat is another man's
poison", and Clowes, whose idea of English Essay was that it should be
a medium for intempestive frivolity, had insisted on his beginning
with, “While I cannot conscientiously go so far as to say that one
man's meat is another man's poison, yet I am certainly of opinion that
what is highly beneficial to one man may, on the other hand, to another
man, differently constituted, be extremely deleterious, and, indeed,
Trevor was not at all sure how the headmaster would take it. But
Clowes had seemed so cut up at his suggestion that it had better be
omitted, that he had allowed it to stand.
He was putting the final polish on this gem of English literature at
half-past five, when Milton came in.
“Busy?” said Milton.
Trevor said he would be through in a minute.
Milton took a chair, and waited.
Trevor scratched out two words and substituted two others, made a
couple of picturesque blots, and, laying down his pen, announced that
he had finished.
“What's up?” he said.
“It's about the League,” said Milton.
“Found out anything?”
“Not anything much. But I've been making inquiries. You remember I
asked you to let me look at those letters of yours?”
Trevor nodded. This had happened on the Sunday of that week.
“Well, I wanted to look at the post-marks.”
“By Jove, I never thought of that.”
Milton continued with the business-like air of the detective who
explains in the last chapter of the book how he did it.
“I found, as I thought, that both letters came from the same place.”
Trevor pulled out the letters in question. “So they do,” he said,
“Do you know Chesterton?” asked Milton.
“Only by name.”
“It's a small hamlet about two miles from here across the downs.
There's only one shop in the place, which acts as post-office and
tobacconist and everything else. I thought that if I went there and
asked about those letters, they might remember who it was that sent
them, if I showed them a photograph.”
“By Jove,” said Trevor, “of course! Did you? What happened?”
“I went there yesterday afternoon. I took about half-a-dozen
photographs of various chaps, including Rand-Brown.”
“But wait a bit. If Chesterton's two miles off, Rand-Brown couldn't
have sent the letters. He wouldn't have the time after school. He was
on the grounds both the afternoons before I got the letters.”
“I know,” said Milton; “I didn't think of that at the time.”
“One of the points about the Chesterton post-office is that there's
no letter-box outside. You have to go into the shop and hand anything
you want to post across the counter. I thought this was a tremendous
score for me. I thought they would be bound to remember who handed in
the letters. There can't be many at a place like that.”
“Did they remember?”
“They remembered the letters being given in distinctly, but as for
knowing anything beyond that, they were simply futile. There was an old
woman in the shop, aged about three hundred and ten, I should think. I
shouldn't say she had ever been very intelligent, but now she simply
gibbered. I started off by laying out a shilling on some
poisonous-looking sweets. I gave the lot to a village kid when I got
out. I hope they didn't kill him. Then, having scattered ground-bait in
that way, I lugged out the photographs, mentioned the letters and the
date they had been sent, and asked her to weigh in and identify the
“My dear chap, she identified them all, one after the other. The
first was one of Clowes. She was prepared to swear on oath that that
was the chap who had sent the letters. Then I shot a photograph of you
across the counter, and doubts began to creep in. She said she was
certain it was one of those two 'la-ads', but couldn't quite say which.
To keep her amused I fired in photograph number three—Allardyce's. She
identified that, too. At the end of ten minutes she was pretty sure
that it was one of the six—the other three were Paget, Clephane, and
Rand-Brown—but she was not going to bind herself down to any
particular one. As I had come to the end of my stock of photographs,
and was getting a bit sick of the game, I got up to go, when in came
another ornament of Chesterton from a room at the back of the shop. He
was quite a kid, not more than a hundred and fifty at the outside, so,
as a last chance, I tackled him on the subject. He looked at the
photographs for about half an hour, mumbling something about it not
being 'thiccy 'un' or 'that 'un', or 'that 'ere tother 'un', until I
began to feel I'd had enough of it. Then it came out that the real chap
who had sent the letters was a 'la-ad' with light hair, not so big as
“That doesn't help us much,” said Trevor.
“—And a 'prarper little gennlemun'. So all we've got to do is to
look for some young duke of polished manners and exterior, with a
thatch of light hair.”
“There are three hundred and sixty-seven fellows with light hair in
the school,” said Trevor, calmly.
“Thought it was three hundred and sixty-eight myself,” said Milton,
“but I may be wrong. Anyhow, there you have the results of my
investigations. If you can make anything out of them, you're welcome to
“Half a second,” said Trevor, as he got up; “had the fellow a cap of
“No. Bareheaded. You wouldn't expect him to give himself away by
wearing a house-cap?”
Trevor went over to the headmaster's revolving this discovery in his
mind. It was not much of a clue, but the smallest clue is better than
nothing. To find out that the sender of the League letters had fair
hair narrowed the search down a little. It cleared the more
raven-locked members of the school, at any rate. Besides, by combining
his information with Milton's, the search might be still further
narrowed down. He knew that the polite letter-writer must be either in
Seymour's or in Donaldson's. The number of fair-haired youths in the
two houses was not excessive. Indeed, at the moment he could not recall
any; which rather complicated matters.
He arrived at the headmaster's door, and knocked. He was shown into
a room at the side of the hall, near the door. The butler informed him
that the headmaster was engaged at present. Trevor, who knew the butler
slightly through having constantly been to see the headmaster on
business via the front door, asked who was there.
“Sir Eustace Briggs,” said the butler, and disappeared in the
direction of his lair beyond the green baize partition at the end of
Trevor went into the room, which was a sort of spare study, and sat
down, wondering what had brought the mayor of Wrykyn to see the
headmaster at this advanced hour.
A quarter of an hour later the sound of voices broke in upon his
peace. The headmaster was coming down the hall with the intention of
showing his visitor out. The door of Trevor's room was ajar, and he
could hear distinctly what was being said. He had no particular desire
to play the eavesdropper, but the part was forced upon him.
Sir Eustace seemed excited.
“It is far from being my habit,” he was saying, “to make unnecessary
complaints respecting the conduct of the lads under your care.” (Sir
Eustace Briggs had a distaste for the shorter and more colloquial forms
of speech. He would have perished sooner than have substituted
“complain of your boys” for the majestic formula he had used. He spoke
as if he enjoyed choosing his words. He seemed to pause and think
before each word. Unkind people—who were jealous of his distinguished
career—used to say that he did this because he was afraid of dropping
an aitch if he relaxed his vigilance.)
“But,” continued he, “I am reluctantly forced to the unpleasant
conclusion that the dastardly outrage to which both I and the Press of
the town have called your attention is to be attributed to one of the
lads to whom I 'ave—have (this with a jerk) referred.”
“I will make a thorough inquiry, Sir Eustace,” said the bass voice
of the headmaster.
“I thank you,” said the mayor. “It would, under the circumstances,
be nothing more, I think, than what is distinctly advisable. The man
Samuel Wapshott, of whose narrative I have recently afforded you a
brief synopsis, stated in no uncertain terms that he found at the foot
of the statue on which the dastardly outrage was perpetrated a
diminutive ornament, in shape like the bats that are used in the game
of cricket. This ornament, he avers (with what truth I know not), was
handed by him to a youth of an age coeval with that of the lads in the
upper division of this school. The youth claimed it as his property, I
was given to understand.”
“A thorough inquiry shall be made, Sir Eustace.”
“I thank you.”
And then the door shut, and the conversation ceased.
XX. THE FINDING OF THE BAT
Trevor waited till the headmaster had gone back to his library, gave
him five minutes to settle down, and then went in.
The headmaster looked up inquiringly.
“My essay, sir,” said Trevor.
“Ah, yes. I had forgotten.”
Trevor opened the notebook and began to read what he had written. He
finished the paragraph which owed its insertion to Clowes, and raced
hurriedly on to the next. To his surprise the flippancy passed
unnoticed, at any rate, verbally. As a rule the headmaster preferred
that quotations from back numbers of Punch should be kept out of
the prefects' English Essays. And he generally said as much. But today
he seemed strangely preoccupied. A split infinitive in paragraph five,
which at other times would have made him sit up in his chair stiff with
horror, elicited no remark. The same immunity was accorded to the
insertion (inspired by Clowes, as usual) of a popular catch phrase in
the last few lines. Trevor finished with the feeling that luck had
favoured him nobly.
“Yes,” said the headmaster, seemingly roused by the silence
following on the conclusion of the essay. “Yes.” Then, after a long
pause, “Yes,” again.
Trevor said nothing, but waited for further comment.
“Yes,” said the headmaster once more, “I think that is a very fair
essay. Very fair. It wants a little more—er—not quite so
Trevor made a note in his mind to effect these improvements in
future essays, and was getting up, when the headmaster stopped him.
“Don't go, Trevor. I wish to speak to you.”
Trevor's first thought was, perhaps naturally, that the bat was
going to be brought into discussion. He was wondering helplessly how he
was going to keep O'Hara and his midnight exploit out of the
conversation, when the headmaster resumed. “An unpleasant thing has
“Now we're coming to it,” thought Trevor.
“It appears, Trevor, that a considerable amount of smoking has been
going on in the school.”
Trevor breathed freely once more. It was only going to be a mere
conventional smoking row after all. He listened with more enjoyment as
the headmaster, having stopped to turn down the wick of the
reading-lamp which stood on the table at his side, and which had begun,
appropriately enough, to smoke, resumed his discourse.
Of course, thought Trevor. If there ever was a row in the school,
Dexter was bound to be at the bottom of it.
“Mr Dexter has just been in to see me. He reported six boys. He
discovered them in the vault beneath the junior block. Two of them were
boys in your house.”
Trevor murmured something wordless, to show that the story
“You knew nothing of this, of course—”
“No. Of course not. It is difficult for the head of a house to know
all that goes on in that house.”
Was this his beastly sarcasm? Trevor asked himself. But he came to
the conclusion that it was not. After all, the head of a house is only
human. He cannot be expected to keep an eye on the private life of
every member of his house.
“This must be stopped, Trevor. There is no saying how widespread the
practice has become or may become. What I want you to do is to go
straight back to your house and begin a complete search of the
“Tonight, sir?” It seemed too late for such amusement.
“Tonight. But before you go to your house, call at Mr Seymour's, and
tell Milton I should like to see him. And, Trevor.”
“You will understand that I am leaving this matter to you to be
dealt with by you. I shall not require you to make any report to me.
But if you should find tobacco in any boy's room, you must punish him
well, Trevor. Punish him well.”
This meant that the culprit must be “touched up” before the house
assembled in the dining-room. Such an event did not often occur. The
last occasion had been in Paget's first term as head of Donaldson's,
when two of the senior day-room had been discovered attempting to
revive the ancient and dishonourable custom of bullying. This time,
Trevor foresaw, would set up a record in all probability. There might
be any number of devotees of the weed, and he meant to carry out his
instructions to the full, and make the criminals more unhappy than they
had been since the day of their first cigar. Trevor hated the habit of
smoking at school. He was so intensely keen on the success of the house
and the school at games, that anything which tended to damage the wind
and eye filled him with loathing. That anybody should dare to smoke in
a house which was going to play in the final for the House Football Cup
made him rage internally, and he proposed to make things bad and
unrestful for such.
To smoke at school is to insult the divine weed. When you are
obliged to smoke in odd corners, fearing every moment that you will be
discovered, the whole meaning, poetry, romance of a pipe vanishes, and
you become like those lost beings who smoke when they are running to
catch trains. The boy who smokes at school is bound to come to a bad
end. He will degenerate gradually into a person that plays dominoes in
the smoking-rooms of A.B.C. shops with friends who wear bowler hats and
Much of this philosophy Trevor expounded to Clowes in energetic
language when he returned to Donaldson's after calling at Seymour's to
deliver the message for Milton.
Clowes became quite animated at the prospect of a real row.
“We shall be able to see the skeletons in their cupboards,” he
observed. “Every man has a skeleton in his cupboard, which follows him
about wherever he goes. Which study shall we go to first?”
“We?” said Trevor.
“We,” repeated Clowes firmly. “I am not going to be left out of this
jaunt. I need bracing up—I'm not strong, you know—and this is just
the thing to do it. Besides, you'll want a bodyguard of some sort, in
case the infuriated occupant turns and rends you.”
“I don't see what there is to enjoy in the business,” said Trevor,
gloomily. “Personally, I bar this kind of thing. By the time we've
finished, there won't be a chap in the house I'm on speaking terms
“Except me, dearest,” said Clowes. “I will never desert you. It's of
no use asking me, for I will never do it. Mr Micawber has his faults,
but I will never desert Mr Micawber.”
“You can come if you like,” said Trevor; “we'll take the studies in
order. I suppose we needn't look up the prefects?”
“A prefect is above suspicion. Scratch the prefects.”
“That brings us to Dixon.”
Dixon was a stout youth with spectacles, who was popularly supposed
to do twenty-two hours' work a day. It was believed that he put in two
hours sleep from eleven to one, and then got up and worked in his study
He was working when Clowes and Trevor came in. He dived head
foremost into a huge Liddell and Scott as the door opened. On hearing
Trevor's voice he slowly emerged, and a pair of round and spectacled
eyes gazed blankly at the visitors. Trevor briefly explained his
errand, but the interview lost in solemnity owing to the fact that the
bare notion of Dixon storing tobacco in his room made Clowes roar with
laughter. Also, Dixon stolidly refused to understand what Trevor was
talking about, and at the end of ten minutes, finding it hopeless to
try and explain, the two went. Dixon, with a hazy impression that he
had been asked to join in some sort of round game, and had refused the
offer, returned again to his Liddell and Scott, and continued to
wrestle with the somewhat obscure utterances of the chorus in
AEschylus' Agamemnon. The results of this fiasco on Trevor and
Clowes were widely different. Trevor it depressed horribly. It made him
feel savage. Clowes, on the other hand, regarded the whole affair in a
spirit of rollicking farce, and refused to see that this was a serious
matter, in which the honour of the house was involved.
The next study was Ruthven's. This fact somewhat toned down the
exuberances of Clowes's demeanour. When one particularly dislikes a
person, one has a curious objection to seeming in good spirits in his
presence. One feels that he may take it as a sort of compliment to
himself, or, at any rate, contribute grins of his own, which would be
hateful. Clowes was as grave as Trevor when they entered the study.
Ruthven's study was like himself, overdressed and rather futile. It
ran to little china ornaments in a good deal of profusion. It was more
like a drawing-room than a school study.
“Sorry to disturb you, Ruthven,” said Trevor.
“Oh, come in,” said Ruthven, in a tired voice. “Please shut the
door; there is a draught. Do you want anything?”
“We've got to have a look round,” said Clowes.
“Can't you see everything there is?”
Ruthven hated Clowes as much as Clowes hated him.
Trevor cut into the conversation again.
“It's like this, Ruthven,” he said. “I'm awfully sorry, but the Old
Man's just told me to search the studies in case any of the fellows
have got baccy.”
Ruthven jumped up, pale with consternation.
“You can't. I won't have you disturbing my study.”
“This is rot,” said Trevor, shortly, “I've got to. It's no good
making it more unpleasant for me than it is.”
“But I've no tobacco. I swear I haven't.”
“Then why mind us searching?” said Clowes affably.
“Come on, Ruthven,” said Trevor, “chuck us over the keys. You might
“Don't be an ass, man.”
“We have here,” observed Clowes, in his sad, solemn way, “a stout
and serviceable poker.” He stooped, as he spoke, to pick it up.
“Leave that poker alone,” cried Ruthven.
Clowes straightened himself.
“I'll swop it for your keys,” he said.
“Don't be a fool.”
“Very well, then. We will now crack our first crib.”
Ruthven sprang forward, but Clowes, handing him off in football
fashion with his left hand, with his right dashed the poker against the
lock of the drawer of the table by which he stood.
The lock broke with a sharp crack. It was not built with an eye to
“Neat for a first shot,” said Clowes, complacently. “Now for the
Umustaphas and shag.”
But as he looked into the drawer he uttered a sudden cry of
excitement. He drew something out, and tossed it over to Trevor.
“Catch, Trevor,” he said quietly. “Something that'll interest you.”
Trevor caught it neatly in one hand, and stood staring at it as if
he had never seen anything like it before. And yet he had—often. For
what he had caught was a little golden bat, about an inch long by an
eighth of an inch wide.
XXI. THE LEAGUE REVEALED
“What do you think of that?” said Clowes.
Trevor said nothing. He could not quite grasp the situation. It was
not only that he had got the idea so firmly into his head that it was
Rand-Brown who had sent the letters and appropriated the bat. Even
supposing he had not suspected Rand-Brown, he would never have dreamed
of suspecting Ruthven. They had been friends. Not very close
friends—Trevor's keenness for games and Ruthven's dislike of them
prevented that—but a good deal more than acquaintances. He was so
constituted that he could not grasp the frame of mind required for such
an action as Ruthven's. It was something absolutely abnormal.
Clowes was equally surprised, but for a different reason. It was not
so much the enormity of Ruthven's proceedings that took him aback. He
believed him, with that cheerful intolerance which a certain type of
mind affects, capable of anything. What surprised him was the fact that
Ruthven had had the ingenuity and even the daring to conduct a campaign
of this description. Cribbing in examinations he would have thought the
limit of his crimes. Something backboneless and underhand of that kind
would not have surprised him in the least. He would have said that it
was just about what he had expected all along. But that Ruthven should
blossom out suddenly as quite an ingenious and capable criminal in this
way, was a complete surprise.
“Well, perhaps you'll make a remark?” he said, turning to
Ruthven, looking very much like a passenger on a Channel steamer who
has just discovered that the motion of the vessel is affecting him
unpleasantly, had fallen into a chair when Clowes handed him off. He
sat there with a look on his pasty face which was not good to see, as
silent as Trevor. It seemed that whatever conversation there was going
to be would have to take the form of a soliloquy from Clowes.
Clowes took a seat on the corner of the table.
“It seems to me, Ruthven,” he said, “that you'd better say
something. At present there's a lot that wants explaining. As this
bat has been found lying in your drawer, I suppose we may take it that
you're the impolite letter-writer?”
Ruthven found his voice at last.
“I'm not,” he cried; “I never wrote a line.”
“Now we're getting at it,” said Clowes. “I thought you couldn't have
had it in you to carry this business through on your own. Apparently
you've only been the sleeping partner in this show, though I suppose it
was you who ragged Trevor's study? Not much sleeping about that. You
took over the acting branch of the concern for that day only, I expect.
Was it you who ragged the study?”
Ruthven stared into the fire, but said nothing.
“Must be polite, you know, Ruthven, and answer when you're spoken
to. Was it you who ragged Trevor's study?”
“Yes,” said Ruthven.
“Why, of course, I met you just outside,” said Trevor, speaking for
the first time. “You were the chap who told me what had happened.”
Ruthven said nothing.
“The ragging of the study seems to have been all the active work he
did,” remarked Clowes.
“No,” said Trevor, “he posted the letters, whether he wrote them or
not. Milton was telling me—you remember? I told you. No, I didn't.
Milton found out that the letters were posted by a small, light-haired
“That's him,” said Clowes, as regardless of grammar as the monks of
Rheims, pointing with the poker at Ruthven's immaculate locks. “Well,
you ragged the study and posted the letters. That was all your share.
Am I right in thinking Rand-Brown was the other partner?”
Silence from Ruthven.
“Am I?” persisted Clowes.
“You may think what you like. I don't care.”
“Now we're getting rude again,” complained Clowes. “Was
Rand-Brown in this?”
“Yes,” said Ruthven.
“Thought so. And who else?”
“I tell you there was no one else. Can't you believe a word a chap
“A word here and there, perhaps,” said Clowes, as one making a
concession, “but not many, and this isn't one of them. Have another
Ruthven relapsed into silence.
“All right, then,” said Clowes, “we'll accept that statement.
There's just a chance that it may be true. And that's about all, I
think. This isn't my affair at all, really. It's yours, Trevor. I'm
only a spectator and camp-follower. It's your business. You'll find me
in my study.” And putting the poker carefully in its place, Clowes left
the room. He went into his study, and tried to begin some work. But the
beauties of the second book of Thucydides failed to appeal to him. His
mind was elsewhere. He felt too excited with what had just happened to
translate Greek. He pulled up a chair in front of the fire, and gave
himself up to speculating how Trevor was getting on in the neighbouring
study. He was glad he had left him to finish the business. If he had
been in Trevor's place, there was nothing he would so greatly have
disliked as to have some one—however familiar a friend—interfering in
his wars and settling them for him. Left to himself, Clowes would
probably have ended the interview by kicking Ruthven into the nearest
approach to pulp compatible with the laws relating to manslaughter. He
had an uneasy suspicion that Trevor would let him down far too easily.
The handle turned. Trevor came in, and pulled up another chair in
silence. His face wore a look of disgust. But there were no signs of
combat upon him. The toe of his boot was not worn and battered, as
Clowes would have liked to have seen it. Evidently he had not chosen to
adopt active and physical measures for the improvement of Ruthven's
“Well?” said Clowes.
“My word, what a hound!” breathed Trevor, half to himself.
“My sentiments to a hair,” said Clowes, approvingly. “But what have
“I didn't do anything.”
“I was afraid you wouldn't. Did he give any explanation? What made
him go in for the thing at all? What earthly motive could he have for
not wanting Barry to get his colours, bar the fact that Rand-Brown
didn't want him to? And why should he do what Rand-Brown told him? I
never even knew they were pals, before today.”
“He told me a good deal,” said Trevor. “It's one of the beastliest
things I ever heard. They neither of them come particularly well out of
the business, but Rand-Brown comes worse out of it even than Ruthven.
My word, that man wants killing.”
“That'll keep,” said Clowes, nodding. “What's the yarn?”
“Do you remember about a year ago a chap named Patterson getting
Clowes nodded again. He remembered the case well. Patterson had had
gambling transactions with a Wrykyn tradesman, had been found out, and
“You remember what a surprise it was to everybody. It wasn't one of
those cases where half the school suspects what's going on. Those cases
always come out sooner or later. But Patterson nobody knew about.”
“Nobody,” said Trevor, “except Ruthven, that is. Ruthven got to know
somehow. I believe he was a bit of a pal of Patterson's at the time.
Anyhow,—they had a row, and Ruthven went to Dexter—Patterson was in
Dexter's—and sneaked. Dexter promised to keep his name out of the
business, and went straight to the Old Man, and Patterson got turfed
out on the spot. Then somehow or other Rand-Brown got to know about
it—I believe Ruthven must have told him by accident some time or
other. After that he simply had to do everything Rand-Brown wanted him
to. Otherwise he said that he would tell the chaps about the Patterson
affair. That put Ruthven in a dead funk.”
“Of course,” said Clowes; “I should imagine friend Ruthven would
have got rather a bad time of it. But what made them think of starting
the League? It was a jolly smart idea. Rand-Brown's, of course?”
“Yes. I suppose he'd heard about it, and thought something might be
made out of it if it were revived.”
“And were Ruthven and he the only two in it?”
“Ruthven swears they were, and I shouldn't wonder if he wasn't
telling the truth, for once in his life. You see, everything the
League's done so far could have been done by him and Rand-Brown,
without anybody else's help. The only other studies that were ragged
were Mill's and Milton's—both in Seymour's.
“Yes,” said Clowes.
There was a pause. Clowes put another shovelful of coal on the fire.
“What are you going to do to Ruthven?”
“Nothing? Hang it, he doesn't deserve to get off like that. He isn't
as bad as Rand-Brown—quite—but he's pretty nearly as finished a
little beast as you could find.”
“Finished is just the word,” said Trevor. “He's going at the end of
“Going? What! sacked?”
“Yes. The Old Man's been finding out things about him, apparently,
and this smoking row has just added the finishing-touch to his
discoveries. He's particularly keen against smoking just now for some
“But was Ruthven in it?”
“Yes. Didn't I tell you? He was one of the fellows Dexter caught in
the vault. There were two in this house, you remember?”
“Who was the other?”
“That man Dashwood. Has the study next to Paget's old one. He's
“Scarcely knew him. What sort of a chap was he?”
“Outsider. No good to the house in any way. He won't be missed.”
“And what are you going to do about Rand-Brown?”
“Fight him, of course. What else could I do?”
“But you're no match for him.”
“But you aren't,” persisted Clowes. “He can give you a stone
easily, and he's not a bad boxer either. Moriarty didn't beat him so
very cheaply in the middle-weight this year. You wouldn't have a
Trevor flared up.
“Heavens, man,” he cried, “do you think I don't know all that
myself? But what on earth would you have me do? Besides, he may be a
good boxer, but he's got no pluck at all. I might outstay him.”
“Hope so,” said Clowes.
But his tone was not hopeful.
XXII. A DRESS REHEARSAL
Some people in Trevor's place might have taken the earliest
opportunity of confronting Rand-Brown, so as to settle the matter in
hand without delay. Trevor thought of doing this, but finally decided
to let the matter rest for a day, until he should have found out with
some accuracy what chance he stood.
After four o'clock, therefore, on the next day, having had tea in
his study, he went across to the baths, in search of O'Hara. He
intended that before the evening was over the Irishman should have
imparted to him some of his skill with the hands. He did not know that
for a man absolutely unscientific with his fists there is nothing so
fatal as to take a boxing lesson on the eve of battle. A little
knowledge is a dangerous thing. He is apt to lose his
recklessness—which might have stood by him well—in exchange for a
little quite useless science. He is neither one thing nor the other,
neither a natural fighter nor a skilful boxer.
This point O'Hara endeavoured to press upon him as soon as he had
explained why it was that he wanted coaching on this particular
The Irishman was in the gymnasium, punching the ball, when Trevor
found him. He generally put in a quarter of an hour with the
punching-ball every evening, before Moriarty turned up for the
customary six rounds.
“Want me to teach ye a few tricks?” he said. “What's that for?”
“I've got a mill coming on soon,” explained Trevor, trying to make
the statement as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world for a
school prefect, who was also captain of football, head of a house, and
in the cricket eleven, to be engaged for a fight in the near future.
“Mill!” exclaimed O'Hara. “You! An' why?”
“Never mind why,” said Trevor. “I'll tell you afterwards, perhaps.
Shall I put on the gloves now?”
“Wait,” said O'Hara, “I must do my quarter of an hour with the ball
before I begin teaching other people how to box. Have ye a watch?”
“Then time me. I'll do four rounds of three minutes each, with a
minute's rest in between. That's more than I'll do at Aldershot, but
it'll get me fit. Ready?”
“Time,” said Trevor.
He watched O'Hara assailing the swinging ball with considerable
envy. Why, he wondered, had he not gone in for boxing? Everybody ought
to learn to box. It was bound to come in useful some time or other.
Take his own case. He was very much afraid—no, afraid was not the
right word, for he was not that. He was very much of opinion that
Rand-Brown was going to have a most enjoyable time when they met. And
the final house-match was to be played next Monday. If events turned
out as he could not help feeling they were likely to turn out, he would
be too battered to play in that match. Donaldson's would probably win
whether he played or not, but it would be bitter to be laid up on such
an occasion. On the other hand, he must go through with it. He did not
believe in letting other people take a hand in settling his private
But he wished he had learned to box. If only he could hit that
dancing, jumping ball with a fifth of the skill that O'Hara was
displaying, his wiriness and pluck might see him through. O'Hara
finished his fourth round with his leathern opponent, and sat down,
“Pretty useful, that,” commented Trevor, admiringly.
“Ye should see Moriarty,” gasped O'Hara.
“Now, will ye tell me why it is you're going to fight, and with whom
you're going to fight?”
“Very well. It's with Rand-Brown.”
“Rand-Brown!” exclaimed O'Hara. “But, me dearr man, he'll ate you.”
Trevor gave a rather annoyed laugh. “I must say I've got a nice,
cheery, comforting lot of friends,” he said. “That's just what Clowes
has been trying to explain to me.”
“Clowes is quite right,” said O'Hara, seriously. “Has the thing gone
too far for ye to back out? Without climbing down, of course,” he
“Yes,” said Trevor, “there's no question of my getting out of it. I
daresay I could. In fact, I know I could. But I'm not going to.”
“But, me dearr man, ye haven't an earthly chance. I assure ye ye
haven't. I've seen Rand-Brown with the gloves on. That was last term.
He's not put them on since Moriarty bate him in the middles, so he may
be out of practice. But even then he'd be a bad man to tackle. He's big
an' he's strong, an' if he'd only had the heart in him he'd have been
going up to Aldershot instead of Moriarty. That's what he'd be doing.
An' you can't box at all. Never even had the gloves on.”
“Never. I used to scrap when I was a kid, though.”
“That's no use,” said O'Hara, decidedly. “But you haven't said what
it is that ye've got against Rand-Brown. What is it?”
“I don't see why I shouldn't tell you. You're in it as well. In
fact, if it hadn't been for the bat turning up, you'd have been
considerably more in it than I am.”
“What!” cried O'Hara. “Where did you find it? Was it in the grounds?
When was it you found it?”
Whereupon Trevor gave him a very full and exact account of what had
happened. He showed him the two letters from the League, touched on
Milton's connection with the affair, traced the gradual development of
his suspicions, and described with some approach to excitement the
scene in Ruthven's study, and the explanations that had followed it.
“Now do you wonder,” he concluded, “that I feel as if a few rounds
with Rand-Brown would do me good.”
O'Hara breathed hard.
“My word!” he said, “I'd like to see ye kill him.”
“But,” said Trevor, “as you and Clowes have been pointing out to me,
if there's going to be a corpse, it'll be me. However, I mean to try.
Now perhaps you wouldn't mind showing me a few tricks.”
“Take my advice,” said O'Hara, “and don't try any of that foolery.”
“Why, I thought you were such a believer in science,” said Trevor in
“So I am, if you've enough of it. But it's the worst thing ye can do
to learn a trick or two just before a fight, if you don't know anything
about the game already. A tough, rushing fighter is ten times as good
as a man who's just begun to learn what he oughtn't to do.”
“Well, what do you advise me to do, then?” asked Trevor, impressed
by the unwonted earnestness with which the Irishman delivered this
pugilistic homily, which was a paraphrase of the views dinned into the
ears of every novice by the school instructor.
“I must do something.”
“The best thing ye can do,” said O'Hara, thinking for a moment, “is
to put on the gloves and have a round or two with me. Here's Moriarty
at last. We'll get him to time us.”
As much explanation as was thought good for him having been given to
the newcomer, to account for Trevor's newly-acquired taste for things
pugilistic, Moriarty took the watch, with instructions to give them two
minutes for the first round.
“Go as hard as you can,” said O'Hara to Trevor, as they faced one
another, “and hit as hard as you like. It won't be any practice if you
don't. I sha'n't mind being hit. It'll do me good for Aldershot. See?”
Trevor said he saw.
“Time,” said Moriarty.
Trevor went in with a will. He was a little shy at first of putting
all his weight into his blows. It was hard to forget that he felt
friendly towards O'Hara. But he speedily awoke to the fact that the
Irishman took his boxing very seriously, and was quite a different
person when he had the gloves on. When he was so equipped, the man
opposite him ceased to be either friend or foe in a private way. He was
simply an opponent, and every time he hit him was one point. And, when
he entered the ring, his only object in life for the next three minutes
was to score points. Consequently Trevor, sparring lightly and in
rather a futile manner at first, was woken up by a stinging flush hit
between the eyes. After that he, too, forgot that he liked the man
before him, and rushed him in all directions. There was no doubt as to
who would have won if it had been a competition. Trevor's guard was of
the most rudimentary order, and O'Hara got through when and how he
liked. But though he took a good deal, he also gave a good deal, and
O'Hara confessed himself not altogether sorry when Moriarty called
“Man,” he said regretfully, “why ever did ye not take up boxing
before? Ye'd have made a splendid middle-weight.”
“Well, have I a chance, do you think?” inquired Trevor.
“Ye might do it with luck,” said O'Hara, very doubtfully. “But,” he
added, “I'm afraid ye've not much chance.”
And with this poor encouragement from his trainer and
sparring-partner, Trevor was forced to be content.
XXIII. WHAT RENFORD SAW
The health of Master Harvey of Seymour's was so delicately
constituted that it was an absolute necessity that he should consume
one or more hot buns during the quarter of an hour's interval which
split up morning school. He was tearing across the junior gravel
towards the shop on the morning following Trevor's sparring practice
with O'Hara, when a melodious treble voice called his name. It was
Renford. He stopped, to allow his friend to come up with him, and then
made as if to resume his way to the shop. But Renford proposed an
amendment. “Don't go to the shop,” he said, “I want to talk.”
“Well, can't you talk in the shop?”
“Not what I want to tell you. It's private. Come for a stroll.”
Harvey hesitated. There were few things he enjoyed so much as
exclusive items of school gossip (scandal preferably), but hot new buns
were among those few things. However, he decided on this occasion to
feed the mind at the expense of the body. He accepted Renford's
“What is it?” he asked, as they made for the football field. “What's
“It's frightfully exciting,” said Renford.
“You mustn't tell any one.”
“All right. Of course not.”
“Well, then, there's been a big fight, and I'm one of the only chaps
who know about it so far.”
“A fight?” Harvey became excited. “Who between?”
Renford paused before delivering his news, to emphasise the
importance of it.
“It was between O'Hara and Rand-Brown,” he said at length.
“By Jove!” said Harvey. Then a suspicion crept into his mind.
“Look here, Renford,” he said, “if you're trying to green me—”
“I'm not, you ass,” replied Renford indignantly. “It's perfectly
true. I saw it myself.”
“By Jove, did you really? Where was it? When did it come off? Was it
a good one? Who won?”
“It was the best one I've ever seen.”
“Did O'Hara beat him? I hope he did. O'Hara's a jolly good sort.”
“Yes. They had six rounds. Rand-Brown got knocked out in the middle
of the sixth.”
“What, do you mean really knocked out, or did he just chuck it?”
“No. He was really knocked out. He was on the floor for quite a
time. By Jove, you should have seen it. O'Hara was ripping in the sixth
round. He was all over him.”
“Tell us about it,” said Harvey, and Renford told.
“I'd got up early,” he said, “to feed the ferrets, and I was just
cutting over to the fives-courts with their grub, when, just as I got
across the senior gravel, I saw O'Hara and Moriarty standing waiting
near the second court. O'Hara knows all about the ferrets, so I didn't
try and cut or anything. I went up and began talking to him. I noticed
he didn't look particularly keen on seeing me at first. I asked him if
he was going to play fives. Then he said no, and told me what he'd
really come for. He said he and Rand-Brown had had a row, and they'd
agreed to have it out that morning in one of the fives-courts. Of
course, when I heard that, I was all on to see it, so I said I'd wait,
if he didn't mind. He said he didn't care, so long as I didn't tell
everybody, so I said I wouldn't tell anybody except you, so he said all
right, then, I could stop if I wanted to. So that was how I saw it.
Well, after we'd been waiting a few minutes, Rand-Brown came in sight,
with that beast Merrett in our house, who'd come to second him. It was
just like one of those duels you read about, you know. Then O'Hara said
that as I was the only one there with a watch—he and Rand-Brown were
in footer clothes, and Merrett and Moriarty hadn't got their tickers on
them—I'd better act as timekeeper. So I said all right, I would, and
we went to the second fives-court. It's the biggest of them, you know.
I stood outside on the bench, looking through the wire netting over the
door, so as not to be in the way when they started scrapping. O'Hara
and Rand-Brown took off their blazers and sweaters, and chucked them to
Moriarty and Merrett, and then Moriarty and Merrett went and stood in
two corners, and O'Hara and Rand-Brown walked into the middle and stood
up to one another. Rand-Brown was miles the heaviest—by a stone, I
should think—and he was taller and had a longer reach. But O'Hara
looked much fitter. Rand-Brown looked rather flabby.
“I sang out 'Time' through the wire netting, and they started off at
once. O'Hara offered to shake hands, but Rand-Brown wouldn't. So they
began without it.
“The first round was awfully fast. They kept having long rallies all
over the place. O'Hara was a jolly sight quicker, and Rand-Brown didn't
seem able to guard his hits at all. But he hit frightfully hard
himself, great, heavy slogs, and O'Hara kept getting them in the face.
At last he got one bang in the mouth which knocked him down flat. He
was up again in a second, and was starting to rush, when I looked at
the watch, and found that I'd given them nearly half a minute too much
already. So I shouted 'Time', and made up my mind I'd keep more of an
eye on the watch next round. I'd got so jolly excited, watching them,
that I'd forgot I was supposed to be keeping time for them. They had
only asked for a minute between the rounds, but as I'd given them half
a minute too long in the first round, I chucked in a bit extra in the
rest, so that they were both pretty fit by the time I started them
“The second round was just like the first, and so was the third.
O'Hara kept getting the worst of it. He was knocked down three or four
times more, and once, when he'd rushed Rand-Brown against one of the
walls, he hit out and missed, and barked his knuckles jolly badly
against the wall. That was in the middle of the third round, and
Rand-Brown had it all his own way for the rest of the round—for about
two minutes, that is to say. He hit O'Hara about all over the shop. I
was so jolly keen on O'Hara's winning, that I had half a mind to call
time early, so as to give him time to recover. But I thought it would
be a low thing to do, so I gave them their full three minutes.
“Directly they began the fourth round, I noticed that things were
going to change a bit. O'Hara had given up his rushing game, and was
waiting for his man, and when he came at him he'd put in a hot counter,
nearly always at the body. After a bit Rand-Brown began to get
cautious, and wouldn't rush, so the fourth round was the quietest there
had been. In the last minute they didn't hit each other at all. They
simply sparred for openings. It was in the fifth round that O'Hara
began to forge ahead. About half way through he got in a ripper, right
in the wind, which almost doubled Rand-Brown up, and then he started
rushing again. Rand-Brown looked awfully bad at the end of the round.
Round six was ripping. I never saw two chaps go for each other so. It
was one long rally. Then—how it happened I couldn't see, they were so
quick—just as they had been at it a minute and a half, there was a
crack, and the next thing I saw was Rand-Brown on the ground, looking
beastly. He went down absolutely flat; his heels and head touched the
ground at the same time.
“I counted ten out loud in the professional way like they do at the
National Sporting Club, you know, and then said 'O'Hara wins'. I felt
an awful swell. After about another half-minute, Rand-Brown was all
right again, and he got up and went back to the house with Merrett, and
O'Hara and Moriarty went off to Dexter's, and I gave the ferrets their
grub, and cut back to breakfast.”
“Rand-Brown wasn't at breakfast,” said Harvey.
“No. He went to bed. I wonder what'll happen. Think there'll be a
row about it?”
“Shouldn't think so,” said Harvey. “They never do make rows about
fights, and neither of them is a prefect, so I don't see what it
matters if they do fight. But, I say—”
“I wish,” said Harvey, his voice full of acute regret, “that it had
been my turn to feed those ferrets.”
“I don't,” said Renford cheerfully. “I wouldn't have missed that
mill for something. Hullo, there's the bell. We'd better run.”
When Trevor called at Seymour's that afternoon to see Rand-Brown,
with a view to challenging him to deadly combat, and found that O'Hara
had been before him, he ought to have felt relieved. His actual feeling
was one of acute annoyance. It seemed to him that O'Hara had exceeded
the limits of friendship. It was all very well for him to take over the
Rand-Brown contract, and settle it himself, in order to save Trevor
from a very bad quarter of an hour, but Trevor was one of those people
who object strongly to the interference of other people in their
private business. He sought out O'Hara and complained. Within two
minutes O'Hara's golden eloquence had soothed him and made him view the
matter in quite a different light. What O'Hara pointed out was that it
was not Trevor's affair at all, but his own. Who, he asked, had been
likely to be damaged most by Rand-Brown's manoeuvres in connection with
the lost bat? Trevor was bound to admit that O'Hara was that person.
Very well, then, said O'Hara, then who had a better right to fight
Rand-Brown? And Trevor confessed that no one else had a better.
“Then I suppose,” he said, “that I shall have to do nothing about
“That's it,” said O'Hara.
“It'll be rather beastly meeting the man after this,” said Trevor,
presently. “Do you think he might possibly leave at the end of term?”
“He's leaving at the end of the week,” said O'Hara. “He was one of
the fellows Dexter caught in the vault that evening. You won't see much
more of Rand-Brown.”
“I'll try and put up with that,” said Trevor.
“And so will I,” replied O'Hara. “And I shouldn't think Milton would
be so very grieved.”
“No,” said Trevor. “I tell you what will make him sick, though, and
that is your having milled with Rand-Brown. It's a job he'd have liked
to have taken on himself.”
Into the story at this point comes the narrative of Charles
Mereweather Cook, aged fourteen, a day-boy.
Cook arrived at the school on the tenth of March, at precisely nine
o'clock, in a state of excitement.
He said there was a row on in the town.
Cross-examined, he said there was no end of a row on in the town.
During morning school he explained further, whispering his tale into
the attentive ear of Knight of the School House, who sat next to him.
What sort of a row, Knight wanted to know.
Cook deposed that he had been riding on his bicycle past the
entrance to the Recreation Grounds on his way to school, when his eye
was attracted by the movements of a mass of men just inside the gate.
They appeared to be fighting. Witness did not stop to watch, much as he
would have liked to do so. Why not? Why, because he was late already,
and would have had to scorch anyhow, in order to get to school in time.
And he had been late the day before, and was afraid that old Appleby
(the master of the form) would give him beans if he were late again.
Wherefore he had no notion of what the men were fighting about, but he
betted that more would be heard about it. Why? Because, from what he
saw of it, it seemed a jolly big thing. There must have been quite
three hundred men fighting. (Knight, satirically, “Pile it on!”)
Well, quite a hundred, anyhow. Fifty a side. And fighting like
anything. He betted there would be something about it in the Wrykyn
Patriot tomorrow. He shouldn't wonder if somebody had been killed.
What were they scrapping about? How should he know!
Here Mr Appleby, who had been trying for the last five minutes to
find out where the whispering noise came from, at length traced it to
its source, and forthwith requested Messrs Cook and Knight to do him
two hundred lines, adding that, if he heard them talking again, he
would put them into the extra lesson. Silence reigned from that moment.
Next day, while the form was wrestling with the moderately exciting
account of Caesar's doings in Gaul, Master Cook produced from his
pocket a newspaper cutting. This, having previously planted a forcible
blow in his friend's ribs with an elbow to attract the latter's
attention, he handed to Knight, and in dumb show requested him to
peruse the same. Which Knight, feeling no interest whatever in Caesar's
doings in Gaul, and having, in consequence, a good deal of time on his
hands, proceeded to do. The cutting was headed “Disgraceful Fracas",
and was written in the elegant style that was always so marked a
feature of the Wrykyn Patriot.
“We are sorry to have to report,” it ran, “another of those
deplorable ebullitions of local Hooliganism, to which it has before now
been our painful duty to refer. Yesterday the Recreation Grounds were
made the scene of as brutal an exhibition of savagery as has ever
marred the fair fame of this town. Our readers will remember how on a
previous occasion, when the fine statue of Sir Eustace Briggs was found
covered with tar, we attributed the act to the malevolence of the
Radical section of the community. Events have proved that we were
right. Yesterday a body of youths, belonging to the rival party, was
discovered in the very act of repeating the offence. A thick coating of
tar had already been administered, when several members of the rival
faction appeared. A free fight of a peculiarly violent nature
immediately ensued, with the result that, before the police could
interfere, several of the combatants had received severe bruises.
Fortunately the police then arrived on the scene, and with great
difficulty succeeded in putting a stop to the fracas. Several
arrests were made.
“We have no desire to discourage legitimate party rivalry, but we
feel justified in strongly protesting against such dastardly tricks as
those to which we have referred. We can assure our opponents that they
can gain nothing by such conduct.”
There was a good deal more to the effect that now was the time for
all good men to come to the aid of the party, and that the constituents
of Sir Eustace Briggs must look to it that they failed not in the hour
of need, and so on. That was what the Wrykyn Patriot had to say
on the subject.
O'Hara managed to get hold of a copy of the paper, and showed it to
Clowes and Trevor.
“So now,” he said, “it's all right, ye see. They'll never suspect it
wasn't the same people that tarred the statue both times. An' ye've got
the bat back, so it's all right, ye see.”
“The only thing that'll trouble you now,” said Clowes, “will be your
O'Hara intimated that he would try and put up with that.
“But isn't it a stroke of luck,” he said, “that they should have
gone and tarred Sir Eustace again so soon after Moriarty and I did it?”
Clowes said gravely that it only showed the force of good example.
“Yes. They wouldn't have thought of it, if it hadn't been for us,”
chortled O'Hara. “I wonder, now, if there's anything else we could do
to that statue!” he added, meditatively.
“My good lunatic,” said Clowes, “don't you think you've done almost
enough for one term?”
“Well, 'myes,” replied O'Hara thoughtfully, “perhaps we have, I
* * * * *
The term wore on. Donaldson's won the final house-match by a matter
of twenty-six points. It was, as they had expected, one of the easiest
games they had had to play in the competition. Bryant's, who were their
opponents, were not strong, and had only managed to get into the final
owing to their luck in drawing weak opponents for the trial heats. The
real final, that had decided the ownership of the cup, had been
Donaldson's v. Seymour's.
Aldershot arrived, and the sports. Drummond and O'Hara covered
themselves with glory, and brought home silver medals. But Moriarty, to
the disappointment of the school, which had counted on his pulling off
the middles, met a strenuous gentleman from St Paul's in the final, and
was prematurely outed in the first minute of the third round. To him,
therefore, there fell but a medal of bronze.
It was on the Sunday after the sports that Trevor's connection with
the bat ceased—as far, that is to say, as concerned its unpleasant
character (as a piece of evidence that might be used to his
disadvantage). He had gone to supper with the headmaster, accompanied
by Clowes and Milton. The headmaster nearly always invited a few of the
house prefects to Sunday supper during the term. Sir Eustace Briggs
happened to be there. He had withdrawn his insinuations concerning the
part supposedly played by a member of the school in the matter of the
tarred statue, and the headmaster had sealed the entente cordiale
by asking him to supper.
An ordinary man might have considered it best to keep off the
delicate subject. Not so Sir Eustace Briggs. He was on to it like glue.
He talked of little else throughout the whole course of the meal.
“My suspicions,” he boomed, towards the conclusion of the feast,
“which have, I am rejoiced to say, proved so entirely void of
foundation and significance, were aroused in the first instance, as I
mentioned before, by the narrative of the man Samuel Wapshott.”
Nobody present showed the slightest desire to learn what the man
Samuel Wapshott had had to say for himself, but Sir Eustace,
undismayed, continued as if the whole table were hanging on his words.
“The man Samuel Wapshott,” he said, “distinctly asserted that a
small gold ornament, shaped like a bat, was handed by him to a lad of
age coeval with these lads here.”
The headmaster interposed. He had evidently heard more than enough
of the man Samuel Wapshott.
“He must have been mistaken,” he said briefly. “The bat which Trevor
is wearing on his watch-chain at this moment is the only one of its
kind that I know of. You have never lost it, Trevor?”
Trevor thought for a moment. He had never lost it. He replied
diplomatically, “It has been in a drawer nearly all the term, sir,” he
“A drawer, hey?” remarked Sir Eustace Briggs. “Ah! A very sensible
place to keep it in, my boy. You could have no better place, in my
And Trevor agreed with him, with the mental reservation that it
rather depended on whom the drawer belonged to.