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Chapter VI A Little Prep - Stalky & Co by Rudyard Kipling


A LITTLE PREP.


Easter term was but a month old when Stettson major, a dayboy,
contracted diphtheria, and the head was very angry. He decreed a new
and narrower set of bounds--the infection had been traced to an
out-lying farmhouse--urged the prefects severely to lick all
trespassers, and promised extra attentions from his own hand.  There
were no words bad enough for Stettson major, quarantined at his
mother's house, who had lowered the school-average of health. This
he  said in the gymnasium after prayers. Then he wrote some two
hundred letters to as many anxious parents and guardians, and bade
the school carry on. The trouble did not spread, but, one night, a
dog-cart drove to the head's door, and in the morning the head had
gone, leaving all things in charge of Mr. King, senior house-master.
The head often ran up to town, where the school devoutly believed he
bribed officials for early proofs of the Army Examination papers; but
this absence was unusually prolonged.

"Downy old bird!" said Stalky  to the allies one wet afternoon  in
the study. "He must have gone on a bend and been locked up under a
false name."

"What for?" Beetle entered joyously into the libel.

"Forty shillin's or a month for hackin' the chucker-out of the Pavvy
on the shins.  Bates always has a spree when he goes to town. Wish he
was back, though. I'm about sick o' King's 'whips an' scorpions' an'
lectures on public-school spirit--yah!--and scholarship!"

"'Crass an' materialized brutality of the middle-classes--readin'
solely for marks.  Not a scholar in the whole school,'" McTurk
quoted, pensively boring holes in the mantel-piece with a hot poker.

"That's rather a sickly way of spending an afternoon. Stinks too.
Let's come out an' smoke. Here's a treat." Stalky held up a long
Indian cheroot. "'Bagged it from my pater last holidays. I'm a bit
shy of it though; it's heftier than a pipe. We'll smoke it
palaver-fashion. Hand it round, eh? Let's lie up behind the old harrow
on the Monkey-farm Road."

"Out of bounds. Bounds beastly strict these days, too. Besides, we
shall cat." Beetle sniffed the cheroot critically. "It's a regular
Pomposo Stinkadore."

"You can; I shan't. What d'you say, Turkey?"

"Oh, may's well, I s'pose."

"Chuck on your cap, then. It's two to one. Beetle, out you come!"

They saw a group of boys by the notice-board in the corridor; little
Foxy, the school sergeant, among them.

"More bounds, I expect," said Stalky. "Hullo, Foxibus, who are you in
mournin' for?" There was a broad band of crape round Foxy's arm.

"He was in my old regiment," said Foxy, jerking his head towards the
notices, where a newspaper cutting was thumb-tacked between callover
lists.

"By gum!" quoth Stalky, uncovering as he read. "It's old
Duncan--Fat-Sow Duncan--killed on duty at something or other Kotal.
'_Rallyin'_his_men_with_ _conspicuous_gallantry._' He would, of
course. '_The_body_was_recovered_.' That's all right. They cut 'em up
sometimes, don't they, Foxy?"

"Horrid," said the sergeant briefly.

"Poor old Fat-Sow! I was a fag when he left. How many does that make
to us, Foxy?"

"Mr. Duncan, he is the ninth. He come here when he was no bigger than
little Grey tertius. My old regiment, too. Yiss, nine to us, Mr.
Corkran, up to date."

The boys went out into the wet, walking swiftly.

"Wonder how it feels--to be shot and all that," said Stalky, as they
splashed down a lane. "Where did it happen, Beetle?"

"Oh, out in India somewhere. We're always rowin' there. But look here,
Stalky, what _is_ the good o' sittin' under a hedge an' cattin'? It's
be-eastly cold. It's be-eastly wet, and we'll be collared as sure as
a gun."

"Shut up! Did you ever know your Uncle Stalky get you into a mess
yet?" Like many other leaders, Stalky did not dwell on past defeats.
They pushed through a dripping hedge, landed among water-logged clods,
and sat down on a rust-coated harrow. The cheroot burned with
sputterings of saltpetre. They smoked it gingerly, each passing to
the other between dosed forefinger and thumb.

"Good job we hadn't one apiece, ain't it?" said Stalky, shivering
through set teeth.  To prove his words he immediately laid all before
them, and they followed his example...

"I told you," moaned Beetle, sweating clammy drops. "Oh, Stalky, you
are a fool!"

"_Je_cat_, _tu_cat_, _il_cat_. _Nous cattons_!" McTurk handed up his
contribution and lay hopelessly on the cold iron.

"Something's wrong with the beastly thing. I say, Beetle, have you
been droppin' ink on it?"

But Beetle was in no case to answer. Limp and empty, they sprawled
across the harrow, the rust marking their ulsters in red squares and
the abandoned cheroot-end reeking under their very cold noses.
Then--they had heard nothing--the head himself stood before them--the
head who should have been in town bribing examiners--the head
fantastically attired in old tweeds and a deer-stalker!

"Ah," he said, fingering his mustache. "Very good. I might have
guessed who it was.  You will go back to the College and give my
compliments to Mr. King and ask him to give you an extra-special
licking. You will then do me five hundred lines. I shall be back
to-morrow. Five hundred lines by five o'clock to-morrow. You are also
gated for a week. This is not exactly the time for breaking bounds.
Extra-special, please."

He disappeared over the hedge as lightly as he had come. There was a
murmur of women's voices in the deep lane.

"Oh, you Prooshan brute!" said McTurk as the voices died away.
"Stalky, it's all your silly fault."

"Kill him! Kill him!" gasped Beetle.

"I ca-an't. I'm going to cat again... I don't mind that, but King'll
gloat over us horrid. Extra-special, ooh!"

Stalky made no answer--not even a soft one. They went to College and
received that for which they had been sent. King enjoyed himself most
thoroughly, for by virtue of their seniority the boys were exempt
from his hand, save under special order.  Luckily, he was no expert
in the gentle art.

"'Strange, how desire doth outrun performance,'" said Beetle
irreverently, quoting from some Shakespeare play that they were
cramming that term. They regained their study and settled down to the
imposition.

"You're quite right, Beetle." Stalky spoke in silky and propitiating
tones. "Now, if the head had sent us up to a prefect, we'd have got
something to remember!"

"Look here," McTurk began with cold venom, "we aren't goin' to row you
about this business, because it's too bad for a row; but we want you
to understand you're jolly well excommunicated, Stalky. You're a
plain ass."

"How was I to know that the head 'ud collar us? What was he doin' in
those ghastly clothes, too?"

"Don't try to raise a side-issue," Beetle grunted severely.

"Well, it was all Stettson major's fault. If he hadn't gone an' got
diphtheria 'twouldn't have happened. But don't you think it rather
rummy--the head droppin' on us that way?"

"Shut up! You're dead!" said Beetle. "We've chopped your spurs off
your beastly heels. We've cocked your shield upside down and---and I
don't think you ought to be allowed to brew for a month."

"Oh, stop jawin' at me. I want--"

"Stop? Why--why, we're gated for a week." McTurk almost howled as the
agony of the situation over-came him. "A lickin' from King, five
hundred lines, _and_ a gatin'.  D'you expect us to kiss you, Stalky,
you beast?"

"Drop rottin' for a minute. I want to find out about the head bein'
where he was."

"Well, you have. You found him quite well and fit. Found him makin'
love to Stettson major's mother. That was her in the lane--I heard
her. And so we were ordered a lickin' before a day-boy's mother. Bony
old widow, too," said McTurk. "Anything else you'd like to find out?"

"I don't care. I swear I'll get even with him some day," Stalky
growled.

"Looks like it," said McTurk. "Extra-special, week's gatin' and five
hundred... and now you're goin' to row about it! Help scrag him,
Beetle!" Stalky had thrown his Virgil at them.

The head returned next day without explanation, to find the lines
waiting for him and the school a little relaxed under Mr. King's
viceroyalty. Mr. King had been talking at and round and over the
boys' heads, in a lofty and promiscuous style, of public-school
spirit and the traditions of ancient seats; for he always improved an
occasion. Beyond waking in two hundred and fifty young hearts a lively
hatred of all other foundations, he accomplished little--so little,
indeed, that when, two days after the head's return, he chanced to
come across Stalky & Co., gated but ever resourceful, playing marbles
in the corridor, he said that he was not surprised--not in the least
surprised. This was what he had expected from persons of their
_morale_.

"But there isn't any rule against marbles, sir. Very interestin'
game," said Beetle, his knees white with chalk and dust. Then he
received two hundred lines for insolence, besides an order to go to
the nearest prefect for judgment and slaughter.

This is what happened behind the closed doors of Flint's study, and
Flint was then head of the Games:--

"Oh, I say, Flint. King has sent me to you for playin' marbles in the
corridor an' shoutin' 'alley tor' an' 'knuckle down.'"

"What does he suppose I have to do with that?" was the answer.

"Dunno. Well?" Beetle grinned wickedly. "What am I to tell him? He's
rather wrathy about it."

"If the head chooses to put a notice in the corridor forbiddin'
marbles, I can do something; but I can't move on a house-master's
report. He knows that as well as I do."

The sense of this oracle Beetle conveyed, all unsweetened, to King,
who hastened to interview Flint.

Now Flint had been seven and a half years at the College, counting six
months with a London crammer, from whose roof he had returned,
homesick, to the head for the final Army polish. There were four or
five other seniors who bad gone through much the same mill, not to
mention boys, rejected by other establishments on account of a
certain overwhelmingness, whom the head had wrought into very fair
shape. It was not a Sixth to be handled without gloves, as King
found.

"Am I to understand it is your intention to allow board-school games
under your study windows, Flint? If so, I can only say--" He said
much, and Flint listened politely.

"Well, sir, if the head sees fit to call a prefects' meeting we are
bound to take the matter up. But the tradition of the school is that
the prefects can't move in any matter affecting the whole school
without the head's direct order."

Much more was then delivered, both sides a little losing their
temper.

After tea, at an informal gathering of prefects in his study, Flint
related the adventure.

"He's been playin' for this for a week, and now he's got it. You know
as well as I do that if he hadn't been gassing at us the way he has,
that young devil Beetle wouldn't have dreamed of marbles."

"We know that," said Perowne, "but that isn't the question. On Flint's
showin' King has called the prefects names enough to justify a
first-class row. Crammers' rejections, ill-regulated hobble-de-hoys,
wasn't it? Now it's impossible for prefects--"

"Rot," said Flint. "King's the best classical cram we've got; and
'tisn't fair to bother the head with a row. He's up to his eyes with
extra-tu. and Army work as it is. Besides, as I told King, we
_aren't_ a public school. We're a limited liability company payin'
four per cent. My father's a shareholder, too."

"What's that got to do with it?" said Venner, a red-headed boy of
nineteen.

"Well, seems to me that we should be interferin' with ourselves. We've
got to get into the Army or--get out, haven't we? King's hired by the
Council to teach us. All the rest's gumdiddle. Can't you see?"

It might have been because he felt the air was a little thunderous
that the head took his after-dinner cheroot to Flint's study; but he
so often began an evening in a prefect's room that nobody suspected
when he drifted in pensively, after the knocks that etiquette
demanded.

"Prefects' meeting?" A cock of one wise eye-brow.

"Not exactly, sir; we're just talking things over. Won't you take the
easy chair?"

"Thanks. Luxurious infants, you are." He dropped into Flint's big
half-couch and puffed for a while in silence. "Well, since you're all
here, I may confess that I'm the mute with the bowstring."

The young faces grew serious. The phrase meant that certain of their
number would be withdrawn from all further games for extra-tuition.
It might also mean future success at Sandhurst; but it was present
ruin for the First Fifteen.

"Yes, I've come for my pound of flesh. I ought to have had you out
before the Exeter match; but it's our sacred duty to beat Exeter."

"Isn't the Old Boys' match sacred, too, sir?" said Perowne. The Old
Boys' match was the event of the Easter term.

"We'll hope they aren't in training. Now for the list. First I want
Flint. It's the Euclid that does it. You must work deductions with
me. Perowne, extra mechanical drawing. Dawson goes to Mr. King for
extra Latin, and Venner to me for German. Have I damaged the First
Fifteen much?" He smiled sweetly.

"Ruined it, I'm afraid, sir," said Flint. "Can't you let us off till
the end of the term?"

"Impossible. It will be a tight squeeze for Sandhurst this year."

"And all to be cut up by those vile Afghans, too," said Dawson.
"Wouldn't think there'd be so much competition, would you?"

"Oh, that reminds me. Crandall is coming down with the Old Boys--I've
asked twenty of them, but we shan't get more than a weak team. I
don't know whether he'll be much use, though. He was rather knocked
about, recovering poor old Duncan's body."

"Crandall major--the Gunner?" Perowne asked.

"No, the minor--'Toffee' Crandall--in a native infantry regiment. He
was almost before your time, Perowne."

"The papers didn't say anything about him. We read about Fat-Sow, of
course.  What's Crandall done. sir?"

"I've brought over an Indian paper that his mother sent me. It was
rather a--hefty, I think you say--piece of work. Shall I read it?"
The head knew how to read. When he had finished the quarter-column of
close type everybody thanked him politely.

"Good for the old Coll.!" said Perowne. "Pity he wasn't in time to
save Fat-Sow, though. That's nine to us, isn't it, in the last three
years?"

"Yes... And I took old Duncan off all games for extra-tu. five years
ago this term," said the head. "By the way, who do you hand over the
Games to, Flint?"

"Haven't thought yet. Who'd you recommend, sir?"

"No, thank you. I've heard it casually hinted behind my back that the
Prooshan Bates is a downy bird, but he isn't going to make himself
responsible for a new head of the Games. Settle it among yourselves.
Good-night."

"And that's the man," said Flint, when the door shut, "that you want
to bother with a dame's school row."

"I was only pullin' your fat leg," Perowne returned, hastily. "You're
so easy to draw, Flint."

"Well, never mind that. The head's knocked the First Fifteen to bits,
and we've got to pick up the pieces, or the Old Boys will have a
walk-over. Let's promote all the Second Fifteen and make Big Side
play up. There's heaps of talent somewhere that we can polish up
between now and the match."

The case was represented so urgently to the school that even Stalky
and McTurk, who affected to despise football, played one Big-Side
game seriously. They were forthwith promoted ere their ardor had time
to cool, and the dignity of their Caps demanded that they should keep
some show of virtue. The match-team was worked at least four days out
of seven, and the school saw hope ahead.

With the last week of the term the Old Boys begat to arrive, and their
welcome was nicely proportioned to their worth. Gentlemen cadets from
Sandhurst and Woolwich, who had only left a year ago, but who carried
enormous side, were greeted with a cheerful "Hullo! What's the Shop
like?" from those who had shared their studies.  Militia subalterns
had more consideration, but it was understood they were not precisely
of the true metal. Recreants who, failing for the Army, had gone into
business or banks were received for old sake's sake, but in no way
made too much of.  But when the real subalterns, officers and
gentlemen full-blown--who had been to the ends of the earth and back
again and so carried no side--came on the scene strolling about with
the head, the school divided right and left in admiring silence. And
when one laid hands on Flint, even upon the head of the Games crying,
"Good Heavens! What do you mean by growing in this way? You were a
beastly little fag when I left," visible haloes encircled Flint. They
would walk to and fro in the corridor with the little red
school-sergeant, telling news of old regiments; they would burst into
form-rooms sniffing the well-remembered smells of ink and whitewash;
they would find nephews and cousins in the lower forms and present
them with enormous wealth; or they would invade the gymnasium and
make Foxy show off the new stock on the bars.

Chiefly, though, they talked with the head, who was father-confessor
and agent-general to them all; for what they shouted in their
unthinking youth, they proved in their thoughtless manhood--to wit,
that the Prooshan Bates was "a downy bird." Young blood who had
stumbled into an entanglement with a pastry-cook's daughter at
Plymouth; experience who had come into a small legacy but mistrusted
lawyers; ambition halting at cross-roads, anxious to take the one that
would lead him farthest; extravagance pursued by the money-lender;
arrogance in the thick of a regimental row--each carried his trouble
to the head; and Chiron showed him, in language quite unfit for
little boys, a quiet and safe way round, out, or under. So they
overflowed his house, smoked his cigars, and drank his health as they
had drunk it all the earth over when two or three of the old school
had foregathered.

"Don't stop smoking for a minute," said the head. "The more you're out
of training the better for us. I've demoralized the First Fifteen
with extra-tu."

"Ah, but we're a scratch lot. Have you told 'em we shall need a
substitute even if Crandall can play?" said a Lieutenant of Engineers
with a D.S.O. to his credit.

"He wrote me he'd play, so he can't have been much hurt. He's coming
down to-morrow morning."

"Crandall minor that was, and brought off poor Duncan's body?" The
head nodded.  "Where are you going to put him? We've turned you out
of house and home already, head Sahib." This was a Squadron Commander
of Bengal Lancers, home on leave.

"I'm afraid he'll have to go up to his old dormitory. You know old
boys can claim that privilege. Yes, I think little Crandall minor
must bed down there once more."

"Bates Sahib "--a Gunner flung a heavy arm round the head's
neck--"you've got something up your sleeve. Confess! I know that
twinkle."

"Can't you see, you cuckoo?" a Submarine Miner interrupted. "Crandall
goes up to the dormitory as an object-lesson, for moral effect and so
forth. Isn't that true, head Sahib?"

"It is. You know too much, Purvis. I licked you for that in '79."

"You did, sir, and it's my private belief you chalked the cane."

"N-no. But I've a very straight eye. Perhaps that misled you."

That opened the flood-gates of fresh memories, and they all told tales
out of school.

When Crandall minor that was--Lieutenant R. Crandall of an ordinary
Indian regiment--arrived from Exeter on the morning of the match, he
was cheered along the whole front of the College, for the prefects
had repeated the sense of that which the head had read them in
Flint's study. When Prout's house understood that he would claim his
Old Boy's right to a bed for one night, Beetle ran into King's house
next door and executed a public "gloat" up and down the enemy's big
form-room, departing in a haze of ink-pots.

"What d'you take any notice of those rotters for?" said Stalky,
playing substitute for the Old Boys, magnificent in black jersey,
white knickers, and black stockings.  "I talked to _him_ up in the
dormitory when he was changin'. Pulled his sweater down for him. He's
cut about all over the arms--horrid purply ones. He's goin' to tell
us about it to-night. I asked him to when I was lacin' his boots."

"Well, you _have_ got cheek," said Beetle, enviously.

"Slipped out before I thought. But he wasn't a bit angry. He's no end
of a chap. I swear, I'm goin' to play up like beans. Tell Turkey!"

The technique of that match belongs to a bygone age. Scrimmages were
tight and enduring; hacking was direct and to the purpose; and around
the scrimmage stood the school, crying, "Put down your heads and
shove!" Toward the end everybody lost all sense of decency, and
mothers of day-boys too close to the touch-line heard language not
included in the bills. No one was actually carried off the field, but
both sides felt happier when time was called, and Beetle helped
Stalky and McTurk into their overcoats. The two had met in the
many-legged heart of things, and, as Stalky said, had "done each
other proud." As they swaggered woodenly behind the teams--
substitutes do not rank as equals of hairy men--they passed a
pony-carriage near the wall, and a husky voice cried, "Well played.
Oh, played indeed!" It was Stettson major, white-checked and
hollow-eyed, who had fought his way to the ground under escort of an
impatient coachman.

"Hullo, Stettson," said Stalky, checking. "Is it safe to come near you
yet?"

"Oh, yes. I'm all right. They wouldn't let me out before, but I had to
come to the match. Your mouth looks pretty plummy."

"Turkey trod on it accidental-done-a-purpose. Well, I'm glad you're
better, because we owe you something. You and your membranes got us
into a sweet mess, young man."

"I heard of that," said the boy, giggling. "The  head told me."

"Dooce he did! When?"

"Oh, come on up to Coll. My shin'll stiffen if we stay jawin' here."

"Shut up, Turkey. I want to find out about this. Well?"

"He was stayin' at our house all the time I was ill."

"What for? Neglectin' the Coll. that way? 'Thought he was in town."

"I was off my head, you know, and they said I kept on callin' for
him."

"Cheek! You're only a day-boy."

"He came just the same, and he about saved my life. I was all bunged
up one night--just goin' to croak, the doctor said--and they stuck a
tube or somethin' in my throat, and the head sucked out the stuff."

"Ugh! 'Shot if _I_ would!"

"He ought to have got diphtheria himself, the doctor said. So he
stayed on at our house instead of going back. I'd ha' croaked in
another twenty minutes, the doctor says."

Here the coachman, being under orders, whipped up and nearly ran over
the three.

"My Hat!" said Beetle. "That's pretty average heroic."

"Pretty average!" McTurk's knee in the small of his back cannoned him
into Stalky, who punted him back. "You ought to be hung!"

"And the head ought to get the V.C.," said Stalky. "Why, he might have
been dead _and_ buried by now. But he wasn't. But he didn't. Ho! ho!
He just nipped through the hedge like a lusty old blackbird.
Extra-special, five hundred lines, an' gated for a week--all
sereno!"

"I've read o' somethin' like that in a book," said Beetle. "Gummy,
what a chap! Just think of it!"

"I'm thinking," said McTurk; and he delivered a wild Irish yell that
made the team turn round.

"Shut your fat mouth," said Stalky, dancing with impatience. "Leave it
to your Uncle Stalky, and he'll have the head on toast. If you say a
word, Beetle, till I give you leave, I swear I'll slay you.
_Habeo_Capitem_crinibus_minimis._ I've got him by the short hairs!
Now look as if nothing had happened."

There was no need of guile. The school was too busy cheering the drawn
match. It hung round the lavatories regardless of muddy boots while
the team washed. It cheered Crandall minor whenever it caught sight
of him, and it cheered more wildly than ever after prayers, because
the Old Boys in evening dress, openly twirling their mustaches,
attended, and instead of standing with the masters, ranged themselves
along the wall immediately before the prefects; and the head called
them over, too--majors, minors, and tertiuses, after their old names.

"Yes, it's all very fine," he said to his guests after dinner, "but
the boys are getting a little out of hand. There will be trouble and
sorrow later, I'm afraid.  You'd better turn in early, Crandall. The
dormitory will be sitting up for you. I don't know to what dizzy
heights you may climb in your profession, but I do know you'll never
get such absolute adoration as you're getting now."

"Confound the adoration. I want to finish my cigar, sir."

"It's all pure gold. Go where glory waits, Crandall--minor."

The setting of that apotheosis was a ten-bed attic dormitory,
communicating through doorless openings with three others. The gas
flickered over the raw pine washstands.  There was an incessant
whistling of drafts, and outside the naked windows the sea beat on
the Pebbleridge.

"Same old bed--same old mattress, I believe," said Crandall, yawning.
"Same old everything. Oh, but I'm lame! I'd no notion you chaps could
play like this." He caressed a battered shin. "You've given us all
something to remember you by."

It needed a few minutes to put them at their ease; and, in some way
they could not understand, they were more easy when Crandall turned
round and said his prayers--a ceremony he had neglected for some
years.

"Oh, I _am_ sorry. I've forgotten to put out the gas."

"Please don't bother," said the prefect of the dormitory. "Worthington
does that."

A nightgowned twelve-year-old, who had been waiting to show off,
leaped from his bed to the bracket and back again, by way of a
washstand.

"How d'you manage when he's asleep?" said Crandall, chuckling.

"Shove a cold cleek down his neck."

"It was a wet sponge when I was junior in the dormitory... Hullo!
What's happening?"

The darkness had filled with whispers, the sound of trailing rugs,
bare feet on bare boards, protests, giggles, and threats such as:

"Be quiet, you ass!... Squattez-vous on the floor, then!... I swear
you aren't going to sit on _my_ bed!... Mind the tooth-glass," etc.

Sta--Corkran said," the prefect began, his tone showing his sense of
Stalky's insolence, "that perhaps you'd tell us about that business
with Duncan's body."

"Yes--yes--yes," ran the keen whispers. "Tell us"

"There's nothing to tell. What on earth are you chaps hoppin' about in
the cold for?"

"Never mind us," said the voices. "Tell about Fat-Sow."

So Crandall turned on his pillow and spoke to the generation he could
not see.

"Well, about three months ago he was commanding a treasure-guard--a
cart full of rupees to pay troops with--five thousand rupees in
silver. He was comin' to a place called Fort Pearson, near Kalabagh."

"I was born there," squeaked a small fag. "It was called after my
uncle."

"Shut up--you and your uncle! Never mind him, Crandall."

"Well, ne'er mind. The Afridis found out that this treasure was on the
move, and they ambushed the whole show a couple of miles before he
got to the fort, and cut up the escort. Duncan was wounded, and the
escort hooked it. There weren't more than twenty Sepoys all told, and
there were any amount of Afridis. As things turned out, I was in
charge at Fort Pearson. Fact was, I'd heard the firing and was just
going to see about it, when Duncan's men came up. So we all turned
back together. They told me something about an officer, but I
couldn't get the hang of things till I saw a chap under the wheels of
the cart out in the open, propped up on one arm, blazing away with a
revolver. You see, the escort had abandoned the cart, and the
Afridis--they're an awfully suspicious gang --thought the retreat was
a trap--sort of draw, you know--and the cart was the bait. So they
had left poor old Duncan alone. 'Minute they spotted how few we were,
it was a race across the flat who should reach old Duncan first. We
ran, and they ran, and we won, and after a little hackin' about they
pulled off. I never knew it was one of us till I was right on top of
him. There are heaps of Duncans in the service, and of course the name
didn't remind me. He wasn't changed at all hardly. He'd been shot
through the lungs, poor old man, and he was pretty thirsty. I gave
him a drink and sat down beside him, and--funny thing, too--he said,
'Hullo, Toffee!' and I said, 'Hullo, Fat-Sow! hope you aren't hurt,'
or something of the kind. But he died in a minute or two--never
lifted his head off my knees... I say, you chaps out there will get
your death of cold. Better go to bed."

"All right. In a minute. But your cuts--your cuts. How did you get
wounded?"

"That was when we were taking the body back to the Fort. They came on
again, and there was a bit of a scrimmage."

"Did you kill any one?"

"Yes. Shouldn't wonder. Good-night."

"Good-night. Thank you, Crandall. Thanks awf'ly, Crandall.
Good-night."

The unseen crowds withdrew. His own dormitory rustled into bed and lay
silent for a while.

"I say, Crandall"--Stalky's voice was tuned to a wholly foreign
reverence.

"Well, what?"

"Suppose a chap found another chap croaking with diphtheria--all
bunged up with it--and they stuck a tube in his throat and the chap
sucked the stuff out, what would you say?"

"Um," said Crandall, reflectively. "I've only heard of one case, and
that was a doctor. He did it for a woman."

"Oh, this wasn't a woman. It was just a boy."

"Makes it all the finer, then. It's about the bravest thing a man can
do. Why?"

"Oh, I heard of a chap doin' it. That's all."

"Then he's a brave man."

"Would _you_ funk it?"

"Ra-ather. Anybody would. Fancy dying of diphtheria in cold blood."

"Well--ah! Er! Look here!" The sentence ended in a grunt, for Stalky
had leaped out of bed and with McTurk was sitting on the head of
Beetle, who would have sprung the mine there and then.

Next day, which was the last of the term and given up to a few wholly
unimportant examinations, began with wrath and war. Mr. King had
discovered that nearly all his house--it lay, as you know, next door
but one to Prout's in the long range of buildings--had unlocked the
doors between the dormitories and had gone in to listen to a story
told by Crandall. He went to the head, clamorous, injured, appealing;
for he never approved of allowing so-called young men of tile world
to contaminate the morals of boyhood. Very good, said the head, he
would attend to it.

"Well, I'm awf'ly sorry," said Crandall guiltily. "I don't think I
told 'em anything they oughtn't  to hear. Don't let them get into
trouble on my account."

"Tck!" the head answered, with the ghost of a wink. "It isn't the boys
that make trouble; it's the masters. However, Prout and King don't
approve of dormitory gatherings on this scale, and one must back up
the house-masters. Moreover, it's hopeless to punish two houses only,
so late in the term. We must be fair and include everybody. Let's
see. They have a holiday task for the Easters, which, of course, none
of them will ever look at. We will give the whole school, except
prefects and study-boys, regular prep. to-night; and the Common-room
will have to supply a master to take it. We must be fair to all."

"Prep. on the last night of the term. Whew!" said Crandall, thinking
of his own wild youth. "I fancy there will be larks."

The school, frolicking among packed trunks, whooping down the
corridor, and "gloating" in form-rooms, received the news with
amazement and rage. No school in the world did prep. on the last
night of the term. This thing was monstrous, tyrannical, subversive
of law, religion, and morality. They would go into the form-rooms,
and they would take their degraded holiday task with them, but--here
they smiled and speculated what manner of man the Common-room would
send up against them. The lot fell on Mason, credulous and
enthusiastic, who loved youth. No other master was anxious to take
that "prep.," for the school lacked the steadying influence of
tradition; and men accustomed to the ordered routine of ancient
foundations found it occasionally insubordinate. The four long
form-rooms, in which all below the rank of study-boys worked,
received him with thunders of applause. Ere he had coughed twice they
favored him with a metrical summary of the marriage laws of Great
Britain, as recorded by the High Priest of the Israelites and
commented on by the leader of the host. The lower forms reminded him
that it was the last day, and that therefore he must "take it all in
play." When he dashed off to rebuke them, the Lower Fourth and Upper
Third began with one accord to be sick, loudly and realistically. Mr.
Mason tried, of all vain things under heaven, to argue with them, and
a bold soul at a back desk bade him "take fifty lines for not 'olding
up 'is 'and before speaking." As one who prided himself upon the
perfection of his English this cut Mason to the quick, and while he
was trying to discover the offender, the Upper and Lower Second,
three form-rooms away, turned out the gas and threw ink-pots. It was
a pleasant and stimulating "prep." The study-boys and prefects heard
the echoes of it far off, and the Common-room at dessert smiled.

Stalky waited, watch in hand, till half-past eight. "If it goes on
much longer the head will come up," said he. "We'll tell the studies
first, and then the dorm-rooms.  Look sharp!"

He allowed no time for Beetle to be dramatic or McTurk to drawl. They
poured into study after study, told their tale, and went again so
soon as they saw they were understood, waiting for no comment; while
the noise of that unholy "prep." grew and deepened. By the door of
Flint's study they met Mason flying towards the corridor.--"He's
gone to fetch the head. Hurry up! Come on!" They broke into Number
Twelve form-room abreast and panting.

"The head! The head! The head!" That call stilled the tumult for a
minute, and Stalky, leaping to a desk, shouted, "He went and sucked
the diphtheria stuff out of Stettson major's throat when we thought
he was in town. Stop rotting, you asses!  Stettson major would have
croaked if the head hadn't done it. The head might have died himself.
Crandall says it's the bravest thing any livin' man can do, and
I"--his voice cracked--"the head don't know we know!"

McTurk and Beetle, jumping from desk to desk, drove the news home
among the junior forms. There was a pause, and then, Mason behind
him, the head entered. It was in the established order of things that
no boy should speak or move under his eye. He expected the hush of
awe. He was received with cheers--steady, ceaseless cheering.  Being
a wise man, he went away, and the forms were silent and a little
frightened.

"It's all right," said Stalky. "He can't do much. 'Tisn't as if you'd
pulled the desks up like we did when old Carleton took prep. once.
Keep it up! Hear 'em cheering in the studies!" He rocketed out with a
yell, to find Flint and the prefects lifting the roof off the
corridor.

When the head of a limited liability company, paying four per cent.,
is cheered on his saintly way to prayers, not only by four form-rooms
of boys waiting punishment, but by his trusted prefects, he can
either ask for an explanation or go his road with dignity, while the
senior house-master glares like an excited cat and points out to a
white and trembling mathematical master that certain methods--not
his, thank God---usually produce certain results. Out of delicacy the
Old Boys did not attend that call-over; and it was to the school
drawn up in the gymnasium that the head spoke icily.

"It is not often that I do not understand you; but I confess I do not
to-night. Some of you, after your idiotic performances at prep., seem
to think me a fit person to cheer. I am going to show you that I am
not."

Crash--crash--crash--came the triple cheer that disproved it, and the
head glowered under the gas. "That is enough. You will gain nothing.
The little boys (the Lower School did not like that form of address)
will do me three hundred lines apiece in the holidays. I shall take
no further notice of them. The Upper School will do me one thousand
lines apiece in the holidays, to be shown up the evening of the day
they come back. And further--"

"Gummy, what a glutton!" Stalky whispered.

"For your behavior towards Mr. Mason I intend to lick the whole of the
Upper School to-morrow when I give you your journey-money. This will
include the three study-boys I found dancing on the form-room desks
when I came up. Prefects will stay after call-over."

The school filed out in silence, but gathered in groups by the
gymnasium door waiting what might befall.

"And now, Flint," said the head, "will you be good enough to give me
some explanation of your conduct?"

"Well, sir," said Flint desperately, "if you save a chap's life at the
risk of your own when he's dyin' of diphtheria, and the Coll. finds
it out, wha-what can you expect, sir?"

"Um, I see. Then that noise was not meant for--ah, cheek. I can
connive at immorality, but I cannot stand impudence. However, it does
not excuse their insolence to Mr. Mason. I'll forego the lines this
once, remember; but the lickings hold good."

When this news was made public, the school, lost in wonder and
admiration, gasped at the head as he went to his house. Here was a
man to be reverenced. On the rare occasions when he caned he did it
very scientifically, and the execution of a hundred boys would be
epic--immense.

"It's all right, head Sahib. _We_ know," said Crandall, as the head
slipped off his gown with a grunt in his smoking-room. "I found out
just now from our substitute. He was gettin' my opinion of your
performance last night in the dormitory. I didn't know then that it
was you he was talkin' about. Crafty young animal. Freckled chap with
eyes---Corkran, I think his name is."

"Oh, I know _him_, thank you," said the head, and reflectively.
"Ye-es, I should have included them even if I hadn't seen 'em."

"If the old Coll. weren't a little above themselves already, we'd
chair you down the corridor," said the Engineer. "Oh, Bates, how
could you? You might have caught it yourself, and where would we have
been, then?"

"I always knew you were worth twenty of us any day. Now I'm sure of
it," said the Squadron Commander, looking round for contradictions.

"He isn't fit to manage a school, though. Promise you'll never do it
again, Bates Sahib. We--we can't go away comfy in our minds if you
take these risks," said the Gunner.

"Bates Sahib, you aren't ever goin' to cane the whole Upper School,
are you?" said Crandall.

"I can connive at immorality, as I said, but I can't stand impudence.
Mason's lot is quite hard enough even when I back him. Besides, the
men at the golf-club heard them singing 'Aaron and Moses.' I shall
have complaints about that from the parents of day-boys. Decency must
be preserved."

"We're coming to help," said all the guests.

The Upper School were caned one after the other, their overcoats over
their arms, the brakes waiting in the road below to take them to the
station, their journey-money on the table. The head began with
Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle. He dealt faithfully by them.

"And here's your journey-money. Good-by, and pleasant holidays."

"Good-by. Thank you, sir. Good-by."

They shook hands. "Desire don't outrun performance--much--this
mornin'. We got the cream of it," said Stalky. "Now wait till a few
chaps come out, and we'll really cheer him."

"Don't wait on our account, please," said Crandall, speaking for the
Old Boys.  "We're going to begin now."

It was very well so long as the cheering was confined to the corridor,
but when it spread to the gymnasium, when the boys awaiting their
turn cheered, the head gave it up in despair, and the remnant flung
themselves upon him to shake hands. Then they seriously devoted
themselves to cheering till the brakes were hustled off the premises
in dumb-show.

"Didn't I say I'd get even with him?" said Stalky on the box-seat, as
they swung into the narrow Northam street. "Now all together--takin'
time from your Uncle Stalky:
   "It's a way we have in the Army,
   It's a way we have in the Navy,
   It's a way we have at the Public Schools,
   Which nobody can deny!"


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