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Index to the Stalky & Co Chapters:


    "Let us now praise famous men"--
     Men of little showing--
    For their work continueth,
    And their work continueth,
     Greater than their knowing.

  • I. IN AMBUSH -

    In summer all right-minded boys built huts in the furze-hill behind
    the College--little lairs whittled out of the heart of the prickly
    bushes, full of stumps, odd root-ends, and spikes, but, since they
    were strictly forbidden, palaces of delight. And for the fifth summer
    in succession, Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle (this was before they
    reached the dignity of a study) had built like beavers a place of
    retreat and meditation, where they smoked.


    The music-room on the top floor of Number Five was filled with the
    "Aladdin" company at rehearsal. Dickson Quartus, commonly known as
    Dick Four, was Aladdin, stage-manager, ballet-master, half the
    orchestra, and largely librettist, for the "book" had been rewritten
    and filled with local allusions. The pantomime was to be given next
    week, in the down-stairs study occupied by Aladdin, Abanazar, and the
    Emperor of China. The Slave of the Lamp, with the Princess
    Badroulbadour and the Widow Twankay, owned Number Five study across
    the same landing, so that the company could be easily assembled. The
    floor shook to the stamp-and-go of the ballet, while Aladdin, in pink
    cotton tights, a blue and tinsel jacket, and a plumed hat, banged
    alternately on the piano and his banjo. He was the moving spirit of
    the game, as befitted a senior who had passed his Army Preliminary
    and hoped to enter Sandhurst next spring.


    It was a maiden aunt of Stalky who sent him both books, with the
    inscription, "To dearest Artie, on his sixteenth birthday;" it was
    McTurk who ordered their hypothecation; and it was Beetle, returned
    from Bideford, who flung them on the window-sill of Number Five study
    with news that Bastable would advance but ninepence on the two;
    "Eric; or, Little by Little," being almost as great a drug as "St.
    Winifred's." "An' I don't think much of your aunt. We're nearly out of
    cartridges, too--Artie, dear."


    They had dropped into the chaplain's study for a Saturday night
    smoke---all four house-masters--and the three briars and the one
    cigar reeking in amity proved the Rev. John Gillett's good
    generalship. Since the discovery of the cat, King had been too ready
    to see affront where none was meant, and the Reverend John,
    buffer-state and general confidant, had worked for a week to bring
    about a good understanding. He was fat, clean-shaven, except for a
    big mustache, of an imperturbable good temper, and, those who loved
    him least said, a guileful Jesuit. He smiled benignantly upon his
    handiwork--four sorely tried men talking without very much malice.


    There was no disguising the defeat. The victory was to Prout, but they
    grudged it not. If he had broken the rules of the game by calling in
    the head, they had had a good run for their money.


    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.


    It was winter and bitter cold of mornings. Consequently Stalky and
    Beetle--McTurk being of the offensive type that makes ornate toilet
    under all circumstances-drowsed till the last moment before turning
    out to call-over in the gas-lit gymnasium. It followed that they were
    often late; and since every unpunctuality earned them a black mark,
    and since three black marks a week meant defaulters' drill, equally
    it followed that they spent hours under the Sergeant's hand. Foxy
    drilled the defaulters with all the pomp of his old parade-ground.
    "Don't think it's any pleasure to me" (his introduction never
    varied). "I'd much sooner be smoking a quiet pipe in my own
    quarters--but I see we 'ave the Old Brigade on our 'ands this
    afternoon. If I only 'ad you regular, Muster Corkran," said he,
    dressing the line.


    It was within a few days of the holidays, the term-end examinations,
    and, more important still, the issue of the College paper which
    Beetle edited. He had been cajoled into that office by the
    blandishments of Stalky and McTurk and the extreme rigor of study
    law. Once installed, he discovered, as others have done before him,
    that his duty was to do the work while his friends criticized. Stalky
    christened it the "Swillingford Patriot," in pious memory of
    Sponge--and McTurk compared the output unfavorably with Ruskin and De
    Quincey. Only the head took an interest in the publication, and his
    methods were peculiar. He gave Beetle the run of his brown-bound,
    tobacco-scented library; prohibiting nothing, recommending nothing.
    There Beetle found a fat arm-chair, a silver inkstand, and unlimited
    pens and paper.  There were scores and scores of ancient dramatists;
    there were Hakluyt, his voyages; French translations of Muscovite
    authors called Pushkin and Lermontoff; little tales of a heady and
    bewildering nature, interspersed with unusual songs--Peacock was that
    writer's name; there was Borrow's "Lavengro"; an odd theme, purporting
    to be a translation of something, called a "Ruba'iyat," which the
    head said was a poem not yet come to its own; there were hundreds of
    volumes of verse---Crashaw; Dryden; Alexander Smith; L. E. L.; Lydia
    Sigourney; Fletcher and a purple island; Donne; Marlowe's "Faust ";
    and--this made McTurk (to whom Beetle conveyed it) sheer drunk for
    three days--Ossian; "The Earthly Paradise"; "Atalanta in Calydon";
    and Rossetti--to name only a few. Then the head, drifting in under
    pretense of playing censor to the paper, would read here a verse and
    here another of these poets, opening up avenues. And, slow breathing,
    with half-shut eyes above his cigar, would he speak of great men
    living, and journals, long dead, founded in their riotous youth; of
    years when all the planets were little new-lit stars trying to find
    their places in the uncaring void, and he, the head, knew them as
    young men know one another. So the regular work went to the dogs,
    Beetle being full of other matters and meters, hoarded in secret and
    only told to McTurk of an afternoon, on the sands, walking high and
    disposedly round the wreck of the Armada galleons, shouting and
    declaiming against the long-ridged seas.


    That very Infant who told the story of the capture of Boh Na Ghee
    [_A_Conference_ _of_the_Powers_: "Many Inventions"] to Eustace
    Cleaver, novelist, inherited an estateful baronetcy, with vast
    revenues, resigned the service, and became a landholder, while his
    mother stood guard over him to see that he married the right girl.
    But, new to his position, he presented the local volunteers with a
    full-sized magazine-rifle range, two miles long, across the heart of
    his estate, and the surrounding families, who lived in savage
    seclusion among woods full of pheasants, regarded him as an erring
    maniac. The noise of the firing disturbed their poultry, and Infant
    was cast out from the society of J.P.'s and decent men till such time
    as a daughter of the county might lure him back to right thinking. He
    took his revenge by filling the house with choice selections of old
    schoolmates home on leave--affable detrimentals, at whom the
    bicycle-riding maidens of the surrounding families were allowed to
    look from afar. I knew when a troop-ship was in port by the Infant's
    invitations. Sometimes he would produce old friends of equal
    seniority; at others, young and blushing giants whom I had left small
    fags far down in the Lower Second; and to these Infant and the elders
    expounded the whole duty of man in the Army.

  • STALKY & CO FULL TEXT - The Full text of Stalky and Co by Rudyard Kipling



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