Part 2 out of 5
stage asides of this nature. So it was left to McTurk to sum up the
situation beneath the guns of the enemy.
"You see," said the Irishman, hanging on the banister, "he begins by
bullying little chaps; then he bullies the big chaps; then he bullies
some one who isn't connected with the College, and then catches it.
Serves him jolly well right... I beg your pardon, sir. I didn't see
you were coming down the staircase."
The black gown tore past like a thunder-storm, and in its wake, three
abreast, arms linked, the Aladdin company rolled up the big corridor
to prayers, singing with most innocent intention:
"Arrah, Patsy, mind the baby! Arrah, Patsy, mind the child!
Wrap him up in an overcoat, he's surely goin' wild!
Arrah, Patsy, mind the baby; just ye mind the child awhile!
He'll kick an' bite an' cry all night! Arrah, Patsy, mind
AN UNSAVORY INTERLUDE.
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."
Whereupon Stalky rose up to grapple with him, but McTurk sat on
Stalky's head, calling him a "pure-minded boy" till peace was
declared. As they were grievously in arrears with a Latin prose, as
it was a blazing July afternoon, and as they ought to have been at a
house cricket-match, they began to renew their acquaintance, intimate
and unholy, with the volumes.
"Here we are!" said McTurk. "'Corporal punishment produced on Eric the
worst effects. He burned _not_ with remorse or regret'--make a note
o' that, Beetle--' but with shame and violent indignation. He
glared'--oh, naughty Eric! Let's get to where he goes in for drink."
"Hold on half a shake. Here's another sample. 'The Sixth,' he says,'is
the palladium of all public schools.' But this lot--" Stalky rapped
the gilded book--"can't prevent fellows drinkin' and stealin', an'
lettin' fags out of window at night, an'--an' doin' what they please.
Golly, what we've missed--not goin' to St. Winifred's!..."
"I'm sorry to see any boys of my house taking so little interest in
Mr. Prout could move very silently if he pleased, though that is no
merit in a boy's eyes. He had flung open the study-door without
knocking--another sin--and looked at them suspiciously. "Very sorry,
indeed, I am to see you frowsting in your studies."
"We've been out ever since dinner, sir," said. McTurk wearily. One
house-match is just like another, and their "ploy" of that week
happened to be rabbit-shooting with saloon-pistols.
"I can't see a ball when it's coming, sir," said Beetle. "I've had my
gig-lamps smashed at the Nets till I got excused. I wasn't any good
even as a fag, then, sir."
"Tuck is probably your form. Tuck and brewing. Why can't you three
take any interest in the honor of your house?"
They had heard that phrase till they were wearied. The "honor of the
house" was Prout's weak point, and they knew well how to flick him on
"If you order us to go down, sir, of course we'll go," said Stalky,
with maddening politeness. But Prout knew better than that. He had
tried the experiment once at a big match, when the three,
self-isolated, stood to attention for half an hour in full view of
all the visitors, to whom fags, subsidized for that end, pointed them
out as victims of Prout's tyranny. And Prout was a sensitive man.
In the infinitely petty confederacies of the Common-room, King and
Macrea, fellow house-masters, had borne it in upon him that by games,
and games alone, was salvation wrought. Boys neglected were boys
lost. They must be disciplined. Left to himself, Prout would have
made a sympathetic house-master; but he was never so left, and with
the devilish insight of youth, the boys knew to whom they were
indebted for his zeal.
"Must we go down, sir?' said McTurk.
"I don't want to order you to do what a right-thinking boy should do
gladly. I'm sorry." And he lurched out with some hazy impression that
he had sown good seed on poor ground.
"Now what does he suppose is the use of that?" said Beetle.
"Oh, he's cracked. King jaws him in Common-room about not keepin' us
up to the mark, an' Macrea burbles about 'dithcipline,' an' old Heffy
sits between 'em sweatin' big drops. I heard Oke (the Common-room
butler) talking to Richards (Prout's house-servant) about it down in
the basement the other day when I went down to bag some bread," said
"What did Oke say?" demanded McTurk, throwing "Eric" into a corner.
"Oh, he said, 'They make more nise nor a nest full o' jackdaws, an'
half of it like we'd no ears to our heads that waited on 'em. They
talks over old Prout--what he've done an' left undone about his boys.
An' how their boys be fine boys, an' his'n be dom bad.' Well, Oke
talked like that, you know, and Richards got awf'ly wrathy. He has a
down on King for something or other. Wonder why?"
"Why, King talks about Prout in form-room--makes allusions, an' all
that--only half the chaps are such asses they can't see what he's
drivin' at. And d'you remember what he said about the 'Casual House'
last Tuesday? He meant us. They say he says perfectly beastly things
to his own house, making fun of Prout's," said Beetle.
"Well, we didn't come here to mix up in their rows," McTurk said
wrathfully. "Who'll bathe after call-over? King's takin' it in the
cricket-field. Come on." Turkey seized his straw and led the way.
They reached the sun-blistered pavilion over against the gray
Pebbleridge just before roll-call, and, asking no questions, gathered
from King's voice and manner that his house was on the road to
"Ah, ha!" said he, turning to show the light of his countenance. "Here
we have the ornaments of the Casual House at last. You consider
cricket beneath you, I believe "--the crowd, flannelled, sniggered
"and from what I have seen this afternoon, I fancy many others of
your house hold the same view. And may I ask what you purpose to do
with your noble selves till tea-time?"
"Going down to bathe, sir," said Stalky.
"And whence this sudden zeal for cleanliness? There is nothing about
you that particularly suggests it. Indeed, so far as I remember--I
may be at fault--but a short time ago--"
"Five years, sir," said Beetle hotly.
King scowled. "_One_ of you was that thing called a water-funk. Yes, a
water-funk. So now you wish to wash? It is well. Cleanliness never
injured a boy or--a house. We will proceed to business," and he
addressed himself to the call-over board.
"What the deuce did you say anything to him for, Beetle?" said McTurk
angrily, as they strolled towards the big, open sea-baths.
"'Twasn't fair--remindin' one of bein' a water-funk. My first term,
too. Heaps of chaps are--when they can't swim."
"Yes, you ass; but he saw he'd fetched you. You ought never to answer
"But it wasn't fair, Stalky."
"My Hat! You've been here six years, and you expect fairness. Well,
you are a dithering idiot."
A knot of King's boys, also bound for the baths, hailed them,
beseeching them to wash--for the honor of their house.
"That's what comes of King's jawin' and messin'. Those young animals
wouldn't have thought of it unless he'd put it into their heads. Now
they'll be funny about it for weeks," said Stalky. "Don't take any
The boys came nearer, shouting an opprobrious word. At last they moved
to windward, ostentatiously holding their noses.
"That's pretty," said Beetle. "They'll be sayin' our house stinks
When they returned from the baths, damp-headed, languid, at peace with
the world, Beetle's forecast came only too true. They were met in the
corridor by a fag--a common, Lower-Second fag--who at arm's length
handed them a carefully wrapped piece of soap "with the compliments
of King's House."
"Hold on," said Stalky, checking immediate attack. "Who put you up to
this, Nixon? Rattray and White? (Those were two leaders in King's
house.) Thank you. There's no answer."
"Oh, it's too sickening to have this kind o' rot shoved on to a chap.
What's the sense of it? What's the fun of it?" said McTurk.
"It will go on to the end of the term, though," Beetle wagged his head
sorrowfully. He had worn many jests threadbare on his own account.
In a few days it became an established legend of the school that
Prout's house did not wash and were therefore noisome. Mr. King was
pleased to smile succulently in form when one of his boys drew aside
from Beetle with certain gestures.
"There seems to be some disability attaching to you, my Beetle, or
else why should Burton major withdraw, so to speak, the hem of his
garments? I confess I am still in the dark. Will some one be good
enough to enlighten me?"
Naturally, he was enlightened by half the form.
"Extraordinary! Most extraordinary! However, each house has its
traditions, with which I would not for the world interfere. _We_ have
a prejudice in favor of washing. Go on, Beetle--from
'_jugurtha_tamen_'--and, if you can, avoid the more flagrant forms of
Prout's house was furious because Macrea's and Hartopp's houses joined
King's to insult them. They called a house-meeting after dinner--an
excited and angry meeting of all save the prefects, whose dignity,
though they sympathized, did not allow them to attend. They read
ungrammatical resolutions, and made speeches beginning, "Gentlemen,
we have met on this occasion," and ending with, "It's a beastly
shame," precisely as houses have done since time and schools began.
Number Five study attended, with its usual air of bland patronage. At
last McTurk, of the lanthorn jaws, delivered himself:
"You jabber and jaw and burble, and that's about all you can do.
What's the good of it? King's house'll only gloat because they've
drawn you, and King will gloat, too. Besides, that resolution of
Orrin's is chock-full of bad grammar, and King'll gloat over that."
"I thought you an' Beetle would put it right, an'--an' we'd post it in
the corridor," said the composer meekly.
"_Par_si_je_le_connai_. I'm not goin' to meddle with the biznai," said
Beetle. "It's a gloat for King's house. Turkey's quite right."
"Well, won't Stalky, then?"
But Stalky puffed out his cheeks and squinted down his nose in the
style of Panurge, and all he said was, "Oh, you abject burblers!"
"You're three beastly scabs!" was the instant retort of the democracy,
and they went out amid execrations.
"This is piffling," said McTurk. "Let's get our sallies, and go and
Three saloon-pistols, with a supply of bulleted breech-caps, were
stored in Stalky's trunk, and this trunk was in their dormitory, and
their dormitory was a three-bed attic one, opening out of a ten-bed
establishment, which, in turn, communicated with the great range of
dormitories that ran practically from one end of the College to the
other. Macrea's house lay next to Prout's, King's next to Macrea's,
and Hartopp's beyond that again. Carefully locked doors divided house
from house, but each house, in its internal arrangements--the College
had originally been a terrace of twelve large houses--was a replica
of the next; one straight roof covering all.
They found Stalky's bed drawn out from the wall to the left of the
dormer window, and the latter end of Richards protruding from a
two-foot-square cupboard in the wall.
"What's all this? I've never noticed it before. What are you tryin' to
"Fillin' basins, Muster Corkran." Richards's voice was hollow and
muffled. "They've been savin' me trouble. Yiss."
"'Looks like it," said McTurk. "Hi! You'll stick if you don't take
Richards backed puffing.
"I can't rache un. Yiss, 'tess a turncock, Muster McTurk. They've took
an' runned all the watter-pipes a storey higher in the houses--runned
'em all along under the 'ang of the heaves, like. Runned 'em in last
holidays. _I_ can't rache the turncock."
"Let me try," said Stalky, diving into the aperture.
"Slip 'ee to the left, then, Muster Corkran. Slip 'ee to the left, an'
feel in the dark."
To the left Stalky wriggled, and saw a long line of lead pipe
disappearing up a triangular tunnel, whose roof was the rafters and
boarding of the college roof, whose floor was sharp-edged joists, and
whose side was the rough studding of the lath and plaster wall under
"Rummy show. How far does it go?"
"Right along, Muster Corkran--right along from end to end. Her runs
under the 'ang of the heaves. Have 'ee rached the stopcock yet? Mr.
King got un put in to save us carryin' watter from down-stairs to
fill the basins. No place for a lusty man like old Richards. I'm tu
thickabout to go ferritin'. Thank 'ee, Muster Corkran."
The water squirted through the tap just inside the cupboard, and,
having filled the basins, the grateful Richards waddled away.
The boys sat round-eyed on their beds considering the possibilities of
this trove. Two floors below them they could hear the hum of the
angry house; for nothing is so still as a dormitory in mid-afternoon
of a midsummer term.
"It has been papered over till now." McTurk examined the little door.
"If we'd only known before!"
"I vote we go down and explore. No one will come up this time o' day.
We needn't keep _cave'_."
They crawled in, Stalky leading, drew the door behind them, and on all
fours embarked on a dark and dirty road full of plaster, odd
shavings, and all the raffle that builders leave in the waste room of
a house. The passage was perhaps three feet wide, and, except for the
struggling light round the edges of the cupboards (there was one to
each dormer), almost pitchy dark.
"Here's Macrea's house," said Stalky, his eye at the crack of the
third cupboard. "I can see Barnes's name on his trunk. Don't make
such a row, Beetle! We can get right to the end of the Coll. Come
on!... We're in King's house now--I can see a bit of Rattray's trunk.
How these beastly boards hurt one's knees!" They heard his nails
scraping, on plaster.
"That's the ceiling below. Look out! If we smashed that the plaster
'ud fall down in the lower dormitory," said Beetle.
"Let's," whispered McTurk.
"An' be collared first thing? Not much. Why, I can shove my hand ever
so far up between these boards."
Stalky thrust an arm to the elbow between the joists.
"No good stayin' here. I vote we go back and talk it over. It's a
crummy place. 'Must say I'm grateful to King for his water-works."
They crawled out, brushed one another clean, slid the saloon-pistols
down a trouser-leg, and hurried forth to a deep and solitary
Devonshire lane in whose flanks a boy might sometimes slay a young
rabbit. They threw themselves down under the rank elder bushes, and
began to think aloud.
"You know," said Stalky at last, sighting at a distant sparrow, "we
could hide our sallies in there like anything."
"Huh!" Beetle snorted, choked, and gurgled. He had been silent since
they left the dormitory. "Did you ever read a book called 'The
History of a House' or something? I got it out of the library the
other day. A French woman wrote it--Violet somebody. But it's
translated, you know; and it's very interestin'. Tells you how a house
"Well, if you're in a sweat to find out that, you can go down to the
new cottages they're building for the coastguard."
"My Hat! I will." He felt in his pockets. "Give me tuppence, some
"Rot! Stay here, and don't mess about in the sun."
"Gi' me tuppence."
"I say, Beetle, you aren't stuffy about anything, are you?" said
McTurk, handing over the coppers. His tone was serious, for though
Stalky often, and McTurk occasionally, manoeuvred on his own account,
Beetle had never been known to do so in all the history of the
"No, I'm not. I'm thinking."
"Well, we'll come, too," said Stalky, with a general's suspicion of
"Don't want you."
"Oh, leave him alone. He's been taken worse with a poem," said McTurk.
"He'll go burbling down to the Pebbleridge and spit it all up in the
study when he comes back."
"Then why did he want the tuppence, Turkey? He's gettin' too beastly
independent. Hi! There's a bunny. No, it ain't. It's a cat, by Jove!
You plug first."
Twenty minutes later a boy with a straw hat at the back of his head,
and his hands in his pockets, was staring at workmen as they moved
about a half-finished cottage. He produced some ferocious tobacco,
and was passed from the forecourt into the interior, where he asked
"Well, let's have your beastly epic," said Turkey, as they burst into
the study, to find Beetle deep in Viollet-le-Duc and some drawings.
"We've had no end of a lark."
"Epic? What epic? I've been down to the coastguard."
"No epic? Then we will slay you, O Beetle," said Stalky, moving to the
attack. "You've got something up your sleeve. _I_ know, when you
talk in that tone!"
"Your Uncle Beetle"--with an attempt to imitate Stalky's
war-voice--"is a great man."
"Oh, no; he jolly well isn't anything of the kind. You deceive
yourself, Beetle. Scrag him, Turkey!"
"A great man," Beetle gurgled from the floor. "_You_ are futile--look
out for my tie!--futile burblers. I am the Great Man. I gloat. Ouch!
"Beetle, de-ah"--Stalky dropped unreservedly on Beetle's chest--" we
love you, an' you're a poet. If I ever said you were a doggaroo, I
apologize; but you know as well as we do that you can't do anything
by yourself without mucking it."
"I've got a notion."
"And you'll spoil the whole show if you don't tell your Uncle Stalky.
Cough it up, ducky, and we'll see what we can do. Notion, you fat
impostor--I knew you had a notion when you went away! Turkey said it
was a poem."
"I've found out how houses are built. Le' me get up. The floor-joists
of one room are the ceiling-joists of the room below."
"Don't be so filthy technical."
"Well, the man told me. The floor is laid on top of those
joists--those boards on edge that we crawled over--but the floor
stops at a partition. Well, if you get behind a partition, same as
you did in the attic, don't you see that you can shove anything you
please under the floor between the floor-boards and the lath and
plaster of the ceiling below? Look here. I've drawn it."
He produced a rude sketch, sufficient to enlighten the allies. There
is no part of the modern school curriculum that deals with
architecture, and none of them had yet reflected whether floors and
ceilings were hollow or solid. Outside his own immediate interests
the boy is as ignorant as the savage he so admires; but he has also
the savage's resource.
"I see," said Stalky. "I shoved my hand there. An' then?"
"An' then They've been calling us stinkers, you know. We might shove
somethin' under--sulphur, or something that stunk pretty bad--an'
stink 'em out. I know it can be done somehow." Beetle's eyes turned
to Stalky handling the diagrams.
"Stinks?" said Stalky interrogatively. Then his face grew luminous
with delight. "By gum! I've got it. Horrid stinks! Turkey!" He leaped
at the Irishman. "This afternoon--just after Beetle went away!
_She's_ the very thing!"
"Come to my arms, my beamish boy," caroled McTurk, and they fell into
each other's arms dancing. "Oh, frabjous day! Calloo, callay! She
will! She will!"
"Hold on," said Beetle. "I don't understand."
"Dearr man! It shall, though. Oh, Artie, my pure-souled youth, let us
tell our darling Reggie about Pestiferous Stinkadores."
"Not until after call-over. Come on!"
"I say," said Orrin, stiffly, as they fell into their places along the
walls of the gymnasium. "The house are goin' to hold another
"Hold away, then." Stalky's mind was elsewhere.
"It's about you three this time."
"All right, give 'em my love... _Here,_sir_," and he tore down the
Gamboling like kids at play, with bounds and sidestarts, with
caperings and curvetings, they led the almost bursting Beetle to the
rabbit-lane, and from under a pile of stones drew forth the new-slain
corpse of a cat. Then did Beetle see the inner meaning of what had
gone before, and lifted up his voice in thanksgiving for that the
world held warriors so wise as Stalky and McTurk.
"Well-nourished old lady, ain't she?" said Stalky. "How long d'you
suppose it'll take her to get a bit whiff in a confined space?"
"Bit whiff! What a coarse brute you are!" said McTurk. "Can't a poor
pussy-cat get under King's dormitory floor to die without your
pursuin' her with your foul innuendoes?"
"What did she die under the floor for?' said Beetle, looking to the
"Oh, they won't worry about that when they find her," said Stalky.
"A cat may look at a king." McTurk rolled down the bank at his own
jest. "Pussy, you don't know how useful you're goin' to be to three
pure-souled, high-minded boys."
"They'll have to take up the floor for her, same as they did in Number
Nine when the rat croaked. Big medicine--heap big medicine! Phew! Oh,
Lord, I wish I could stop laughin'," said Beetle.
"Stinks! Hi, stinks! Clammy ones!" McTurk gasped as he regained his
place. "And"--the exquisite humor of it brought them sliding down
together in a tangle--"it's all for the honor of the house, too!"
"An' they're holdin' another meeting--on us," Stalky panted, his knees
in the ditch and his face in the long grass. "Well, let's get the
bullet out of her and hurry up. The sooner she's bedded out the
Between them they did some grisly work with a penknife; between them
(ask not who buttoned her to his bosom) they took up the corpse and
hastened back, Stalky arranging their plan of action at the full
The afternoon sun, lying in broad patches on the bed-rugs, saw three
boys and an umbrella disappear into a dormitory wall. In five minutes
they emerged, brushed themselves all over, washed their hands, combed
their hair, and descended.
"Are you sure you shoved her far enough under?" said McTurk suddenly.
"Hang it, man, I shoved her the full length of my arm and Beetle's
brolly. That must be about six feet. She's bung in the middle of
King's big upper ten-bedder. Eligible central situation, _I_ call it.
She'll stink out his chaps, and Hartopp's and Macrea's, when she
really begins to fume. I swear your Uncle Stalky is a great man. Do
you realize what a great man he is, Beetle?"
"Well, I had the notion first, hadn't I--? only--"
"You couldn't do it without your Uncle Stalky, could you?"
"They've been calling us stinkers for a week now," said McTurk. "Oh,
_won't_ they catch it!"
"Stinker! Yah! Stink-ah!" rang down the corridor.
"And she's there," said Stalky, a hand on either boy's shoulder.
"She--is--there, gettin' ready to surprise 'em. Presently she'll
begin to whisper to 'em in their dreams. Then she'll whiff. Golly,
how she'll whiff! Oblige me by thinkin' of it for two minutes."
They went to their study in more or less of silence. There they began
to laugh--laugh as only boys can. They laughed with their foreheads
on the tables, or on the floor; laughed at length, curled over the
backs of chairs or clinging to a book-shelf; laughed themselves limp.
And in the middle of it Orrin entered on behalf of the house. "Don't
mind us, Orrin; sit down. You don't know how we respect and admire
you. There's something about your pure, high young forehead, full of
the dreams of innocent boyhood, that's no end fetchin'. It is,
"The house sent me to give you this." He laid a folded sheet of paper
on the table and retired with an awful front.
"It's the resolution! Oh, read it, some one. I'm too silly-sick with
laughin' to see," said Beetle. Stalky jerked it open with a
precautionary sniff. "Phew! Phew! Listen.
--how many f's in indifference, Beetle?"
"Two for choice."
"Only one here--'_adopted_by_the_occupants_of_Number_Five_study_in_
vote_of_censure_on_the_said_study._ That's all."
"And she bled all down my shirt, too!" said Beetle.
"An' I'm catty all over," said McTurk, "though I washed twice."
"An' I nearly broke Beetle's brolly plantin' her where she would blossom!"
The situation was beyond speech, but not laughter. There was some
attempt that night to demonstrate against the three in their
dormitory; so they came forth.
"You see," Beetle began suavely as he loosened his braces, "the
trouble with you is that you're a set of unthinkin' asses. You've no
more brains than spidgers. We've told you that heaps of times,
"We'll give the three of you a dormitory lickin'. You always jaw at us
as if you were prefects," cried one.
"Oh, no, you won't," said Stalky, "because you know that if you did
you'd get the worst of it sooner or later. _We_ aren't in any hurry.
We can afford to wait for our little revenges. You've made howlin'
asses of yourselves, and just as soon as King gets hold of your
precious resolutions to-morrow you'll find that out. If you aren't
sick an' sorry by to-morrow night, I'll--I'll eat my hat."
But or ever the dinner-bell rang the next day Prout's were sadly aware
of their error. King received stray members of that house with an
exaggerated attitude of fear. Did they purpose to cause him to be
dismissed from the College by unanimous resolution? What were their
views concerning the government of the school, that he might hasten
to give effect to them? he would not offend them for worlds; but he
feared--he sadly feared--that his own house, who did not pass
resolutions (but washed), might somewhat deride.
King was a happy man, and his house, basking in the favor of his
smile, made that afternoon a long penance to the misled Prouts. And
Prout himself, with a dull and lowering visage, tried to think out
the rights and wrongs of it all, only plunging deeper into
bewilderment. Why should his house be called "Stinkers"? Truly, it was
a small thing, but he had been trained to believe that straws show
which way the wind blows, and that there is no smoke without fire. He
approached King in Common-room with a sense of injustice, but King
was pleased to be full of airy persiflage that tide, and brilliantly
danced dialectical rings round Prout.
"Now," said Stalky at bedtime, making pilgrimage through the
dormitories before the prefects came by, "_now_ what have you got to
say for yourselves? Foster, Carton, Finch, Longbridge, Marlin, Brett!
I heard you chaps catchin' it from King--he made hay of you--an' all
you could do was to wriggle an' grin an' say, 'Yes, sir,' an' 'No,
sir,'' an' 'O, sir,' an' 'Please, sir'! You an' your resolution!
"Oh, shut up, Stalky."
"Not a bit of it. You're a gaudy lot of resolutionists, you are!
You've made a sweet mess of it. Perhaps you'll have the decency to
leave us alone next time."
Here the house grew angry, and in many voices pointed out how this
blunder would never have come to pass if Number Five study had helped
them from the first.
"But you chaps are so beastly conceited, an'--an' you swaggered into
the meetin' as if we were a lot of idiots," growled Orrin of the
"That's precisely what you are! That's what we've been tryin' to
hammer into your thick heads all this time," said Stalky. "Never
mind, we'll forgive you. Cheer up. You can't help bein' asses, you
know," and, the enemy's flank deftly turned, Stalky hopped into bed.
That night was the first of sorrow among the jubilant King's. By some
accident of under-floor drafts the cat did not vex the dormitory
beneath which she lay, but the next one to the right; stealing on the
air rather as a pale-blue sensation than as any poignant offense. But
the mere adumbration of an odor is enough for the sensitive nose and
clean tongue of youth. Decency demands that we draw several
carbolized sheets over what the dormitory said to Mr. King and what
Mr. King replied. He was genuinely proud of his house and fastidious
in all that concerned their well-being. He came; he sniffed; he said
things. Next morning a boy in that dormitory confided to his bosom
friend, a fag of Macrea's, that there was trouble in their midst
which King would fain keep secret.
But Macrea's boy had also a bosom friend in Prout's, a shock-headed
fag of malignant disposition, who, when he had wormed out the secret,
told--told it in a high-pitched treble that rang along the corridor
like a bat's squeak.
"An'--an' they've been calling us 'stinkers' all this week. Why,
Harland minor says they simply can't sleep in his dormitory for the
stink. Come on!"
"With one shout and with one cry" Prout's juniors hurled themselves
into the war, and through the interval between first and second
lesson some fifty twelve-year-olds were embroiled on the gravel
outside King's windows to a tune whose _leit-motif_ was the word
"Hark to the minute-gun at sea!" said Stalky. They were in their study
collecting books for second lesson--Latin, with King. "I thought his
azure brow was a bit cloudy at prayers. 'She is comin', sister Mary.
"If they make such a row now, what will they do when she really begins
to look up an' take notice?"
"Well, no vulgar repartee, Beetle. Ali we want is to keep out of this
row like gentlemen."
"'Tis but a little faded flower.' Where's my Horace? Look here, I
don't understand what she means by stinkin' out Rattray's dormitory
first. We holed in under White's, didn't we?" asked McTurk, with a
"Skittish little thing. She's rompin' about all over the place, I
"My Aunt! King'll be a cheerful customer at second lesson. I haven't
prepared my Horace one little bit, either," said Beetle. "Come on!"
They were outside the form-room door now. It was within five minutes
of the bell, and King might arrive at any moment.
Turkey elbowed into a cohort of scuffling fags, cut out Thornton
tertius (he that had been Harland's bosom friend), and bade him tell
It was a simple one, interrupted by tears. Many of King's house trod
already battered him for libel.
"Oh, it's nothing," McTurk cried. "He says that King's house stinks.
"Stale!" Stalky shouted. "We knew that years ago, only we didn't
choose to run about shoutin' 'stinker.' We've got some manners, ir
they haven't. Catch a fag, Turkey, and make sure of it."
Turkey's long arm closed on a hurried and anxious ornament of the
"Oh, McTurk, please let me go. I don't stink--I swear I don't!"
"Guilty conscience!" cried Beetle. "Who said you did?"
"What d'you make of it?" Stalky punted the small boy into Beetle's
"Snf! Snf! He does, though. I think it's leprosy--or thrush. P'raps
it's both. Take it away."
"Indeed, Master Beetle"--King generally came to the house-door for a
minute or two as the bell rang--" we are vastly indebted to you for
your diagnosis, which seems to reflect almost as much credit on the
natural unwholesomeness of your mind as it does upon your pitiful
ignorance of the diseases of which you discourse so glibly. We will,
however, test your knowledge in other directions."
That was a merry lesson, but, in his haste to scarify Beetle, King
clean neglected to give him an imposition, and since at the same time
he supplied him with many priceless adjectives for later use, Beetle
was well content, and applied himself most seriously throughout third
lesson (algebra with little Hartopp) to composing a poem entitled
After dinner King took his house to bathe in the sea off the
Pebbleridge. It was an old promise; but he wished he could have
evaded it, for all Prout's lined up by the Fives Court and cheered
with intention. In his absence not less than half the school invaded
the infected dormitory to draw their own conclusions. The cat had
gained in the last twelve hours, but a battlefield of the fifth day
could not have been so flamboyant as the spies reported.
"My word, she _is_ doin' herself proud," said Stalky. "Did you ever
smell anything like it? Ah, an' she isn't under White's dormitory at
"But she will be. Give her time," said Beetle. "She'll twine like a
giddy honeysuckle. What howlin' Lazarites they are! No house is
justified in makin' itself a stench in the nostrils of decent--"
"High-minded, pure-souled boys. Do you burn with remorse and regret?"
said McTurk, as they hastened to meet the house coming up from the
sea. King had deserted it, so speech was unfettered. Round its front
played a crowd of skirmishers--all houses mixed--flying, reforming,
shrieking insults. On its tortured flanks marched the Hoplites,
seniors hurling jests one after another--simple and primitive jests of
the Stone Age. To these the three added themselves, dispassionately,
with an air of aloofness, almost sadly.
"And they look all right, too," said Stalky. "It can't be Rattray, can
"Rattray, dear? He seems stuffy about something or other. Look here,
old man, we don't bear any malice about your sending that soap to us
last week, do we? Be cheerful, Rat. You can live this down all right.
I dare say it's only a few fags. Your house is so beastly slack,
"You aren't going back to the house, are you?" said McTurk. The
victims desired nothing better. "You've simply no conception of the
reek up there. Of course, frowzin' as you do, you wouldn't notice it;
but, after this nice wash and the clean, fresh air, even you'd be
upset. 'Much better camp on the Burrows. We'll get you some straw.
Shall we'?" The house hurried in to the tune of "John Brown's body,"
sung by loving schoolmates, and barricaded themselves in their
form-room. Straightway Stalky chalked a large cross, with "Lord, have
mercy upon us," on the door, and left King to find it.
The wind shifted that night and wafted a carrion-reek into Macrea's
dormitories; so that boys in nightgowns pounded on the locked door
between the houses, entreating King's to wash. Number Five study went
to second lesson with not more than half a pound of camphor apiece in
their clothing; and King, too wary to ask for explanations, gibbered
a while and hurled them forth. So Beetle finished yet another poem at
peace in the study.
"They're usin' carbolic now. Malpas told me," said Stalky. "King
thinks it's the drains."
"She'll need a lot o' carbolic," said McTurk. "No harm tryin', I
suppose. It keeps King out of mischief."
"I swear I thought he was goin' to kill me when I sniffed just now. He
didn't mind Burton major sniffin' at me the other day, though. He
never stopped Alexander howlin' 'Stinker!' into our form-room
before--before we doctored 'em. He just grinned," said Stalky. "What
was he frothing over you for, Beetle?"
"Aha! That, was my subtle jape. I had him on toast. You know he always
jaws about the learned Lipsius."
"'Who at the age of four'--that chap?" said McTurk.
"Yes. Whenever he hears I've written a poem. Well, just as I was
sittin' down, I whispered, 'How is our learned Lepsius?' to Burton
major. Old Butt grinned like an owl. _He_ didn't know what I was
drivin' at; but King jolly well did. That was really why he hove us
out. Ain't you grateful? Now shut up. I'm goin' to write the 'Ballad
of the Learned Lipsius.'"
"Keep clear of anything coarse, then," said Stalky. "I shouldn't like
to be coarse on this happy occasion."
"Not for wo-orlds. What rhymes to 'stenches,' someone?"
In Common-room at lunch King discoursed acridly to Prout of boys with
prurient minds, who perverted their few and baleful talents to sap
discipline and corrupt their equals, to deal in foul imagery and
"But you didn't seem to consider this when your house called
us--ah--stinkers. If you hadn't assured me that you never interfere
with another man's house, I should almost believe that it was a few
casual remarks of yours that started all this nonsense."
Prout had endured much, for King always took his temper to meals.
"You spoke to Beetle yourself, didn't you? Something about not
bathing, and being a water-funk?" the school chaplain put in. "I was
scoring in the pavilion that day."
"I may have--jestingly. I really don't pretend to remember every
remark I let fall among small boys; and full well I know the Beetle
has no feelings to be hurt."
"May be; but he, or they--it comes to to same thing--have the fiend's
own knack of discovering a man's weak place. I confess I rather go
out of my way to conciliate Number Five study. It may be soft, but so
far, I believe, I am the only man here whom they haven't maddened by
"That is all beside the point. I flatter myself I can deal with them
alone as occasion arises. But if they feel themselves morally
supported by those who should wield an absolute and open-handed
justice, then I say that my lot is indeed a hard one. Of all things I
detest, I admit that anything verging on disloyalty among ourselves
is the first."
The Common-room looked at one another out of the corners of their
eyes, and Prout blushed.
"I deny it absolutely," he said. "Er--in fact, I own that I personally
object to all three of them. It is not fair, therefore, to--"
"How long do you propose to allow it?" said King.
"But surely," said Macrea, deserting his usual ally, "the blame, if
there be any, rests with you, King. You can't hold them responsible
for the--you prefer the good old Anglo-Saxon, I believe--stink in
your house. My boys arc complaining of it now."
"What can you expect? You know what boys are. Naturally they take
advantage of what to them is a heaven-sent opportunity," said little
Hartopp. "What _is_ the trouble in your dormitories, King?"
Mr. King explained that as he had made it the one rule of his life
never to interfere with another man's house, so he expected not to be
too patently interfered with. They might be interested to learn
--here the chaplain heaved a weary sigh--that he had taken all steps
that, in his poor judgment, would meet the needs of the case. Nay,
further, he had himself expended, with no thought of reimbursement,
sums, the amount of which he would not specify, on disinfectants.
This he had done because he knew by bitter--by most bitter--experience
that the management of the college was slack, dilatory, and
inefficient. He might even add, almost as slack as the administration
of certain houses which now thought fit to sit in judgment on his
actions. With a short summary of his scholastic career, and a precis
of his qualifications, including his degrees, he withdrew, slamming
"Heigho!" said the chaplain. "Ours is a dwarfing life--a belittling
life, my brethren. God help all schoolmasters! They need it."
"I don't like the boys, I own"--Prout dug viciously with his fork into
the table-cloth--"and I don't pretend to be a strong man, as you
know. But I confess I can't see any reason why I should take steps
against Stalky and the others because King happens to be annoyed
"Falling into the pit he has digged," said little Hartopp. "Certainly
not, Prout. No one accuses you of setting one house against another
through sheer idleness."
"A belittling life--a belittling life." The chaplain rose. "I go to
correct French exercises. By dinner King will have scored off some
unlucky child of thirteen; he will repeat to us every word of his
brilliant repartees, and all will be well."
"But about those three. Are they so prurient-minded?"
"Nonsense," said little Hartopp. "If you thought for a minute, Prout,
you would see that the 'precocious flow of fetid imagery,' that King
complains of, is borrowed wholesale from King. He 'nursed the pinion
that impelled the steel.' Naturally he does not approve. Come into
the smoking-room for a minute. It isn't fair to listen to boys; but
they should be now rubbing it into King's house outside. Little
things please little minds."
The dingy den off the Common-room was never used for anything except
gowns. Its windows were ground glass; one could not see out of it,
but one could hear almost every word on the gravel outside. A light
and wary footstep came up from Number Five.
"Rattray!" in a subdued voice--Rattray's study fronted that way.
"D'you know if Mr. King's anywhere about? I've got a--" McTurk
discreetly left the end of the sentence open.
"No. he's gone out," said Rattray unguardedly.
"Ah! The learned Lipsius is airing himself, is he? His Royal Highness
has gone to fumigate." McTurk climbed on the railings, where he held
forth like the never-wearied rook.
"Now in all the Coll. there was no stink like the stink of King's
house, for it stank vehemently and none knew what to make of it. Save
King. And he washed the fags _privatim_et_seriatim_. In the fishpools
of Hesbon washed he them, with an apron about his loins."
"Shut up, you mad Irishman!" There was the sound of a golf-ball
spurting up gravel.
"It's no good getting wrathy, Rattray. We've come to jape with you.
Come on, Beetle. They're all at home. You can wind 'em."
"Where's the Pomposo Stinkadore? 'Tisn't safe for a pure-souled,
high-minded boy to be seen round his house these days. Gone out, has
he? Never mind. I'll do the best I can, Rattray. I'm
_in_loco_parentis_ just now."
("One for you, Prout," whispered Macrea, for this was Mr. Prout's pet
"I have a few words to impart to you, my young friend. We will
discourse together a while."
Here the listening Prout sputtered: Beetle, in a strained voice, had
chosen a favorite gambit of King's.
"I repeat, Master Rattray, we will confer, and the matter of our
discourse shall not be stinks, for that is a loathsome and obscene
word. We will, with your good leave--granted, I trust, Master
Rattray, granted, I trust--study this--this scabrous upheaval of
latent demoralization. What impresses me most is not so much the
blatant indecency with which you swagger abroad under your load of
putrescence" (you must imagine this discourse punctuated with
golf-balls, but old Rattray was ever a bad shot) "as the cynical
immorality with which you revel in your abhorrent aromas. Far be it
from me to interfere with another's house--"
("Good Lord!" said Prout, "but this is King."
"Line for line, letter for letter; listen;" said little Hartopp.)
"But to say that you stink, as certain lewd fellows of the baser sort
aver, is to say nothing--less than nothing. In the absence of your
beloved house-master, for whom no one has a higher regard than
myself, I will, if you will allow me, explain the grossness--the
unparalleled enormity--the appalling fetor of the stenches (I believe
in the good old Anglo-Saxon word), stenches, sir, with which you have
seen fit to infect your house... Oh, bother! I've forgotten the rest,
but it was very beautiful. Aren't you grateful to us for laborin'
with you this way, Rattray? Lots of chaps 'ud never have taken the
trouble, but we're grateful, Rattray."
"Yes, we're horrid grateful," grunted McTurk. "We don't forget that
soap. We're polite. Why ain't you polite, Rat?"
"Hallo!" Stalky cantered up, his cap over one eye. "Exhortin' the
Whiffers, eh? I'm afraid they're too far gone to repent. Rattray!
White! Perowne! Malpas! No answer. This is distressin'. This is
truly distressin'. Bring out your dead, you glandered lepers!"
"You think yourself funny, don't you?" said Rattray, stung from his
dignity by this last. "It's only a rat or something under the floor.
We're going to have it up to-morrow."
"Don't try to shuffle it off on a poor dumb animal, and dead, too. I
loathe prevarication. 'Pon my soul, Rattray--"
"Hold on. The Hartoffles never said 'Pon my soul' in all his little
life," said Beetle critically.
("Ah!" said Prout to little Hartopp.)
"Upon my word, sir, upon my word, sir, I expected better things of
you, Rattray. Why can you not own up to your misdeeds like a man?
Have _I_ ever shown any lack of confidence in _you_?"
("It's not brutality," murmured little Hartopp, as though answering a
question no one had asked. "It's boy; only boy.")
"And this was the house," Stalky changed from a pecking, fluttering
voice to tragic earnestness. "This was the--the--open cesspit that
dared to call us 'stinkers.' And now--and now, it tries to shelter
itself behind a dead rat. You annoy me, Rattray. You disgust me! You
irritate me unspeakably! Thank Heaven, I am a man of equable
("This is to your address, Macrea," said Prout.
"I fear so, I fear so.")
"Or I should scarcely be able to contain myself before your mocking
"_Cave_!" in an undertone. Beetle had spied King sailing down the
"And what may you be doing here, my little friends?" the house-master
began. "I had a fleeting notion--correct me if I am wrong" (the
listeners with one accord choked)--"that if I found you outside my
house I should visit you with dire pains and penalties."
"We were just goin' for a walk, sir," said Beetle.
"And you stopped to speak to Rattray _en_route_?"
"Yes, sir. We've been throwing golf-balls," said Rattray, coming out
of the study.
("Old Rat is more of a diplomat than I thought. So far he is strictly
within the truth," said little Hartopp. "Observe the ethics of it,
"Oh, you were sporting with them, were you? I must say I do not envy
you your choice of associates. I fancied they might have been engaged
in some of the prurient discourse with which they have been so
disgustingly free of late. I should strongly advise you to direct
your steps most carefully in the future. Pick up those golf-balls."
He passed on.
Next day Richards, who had been a carpenter in the Navy, and to whom
odd jobs were confided, was ordered to take up a dormitory floor; for
Mr. King held that something must have died there.
"We need not neglect all our work for a trumpery incident of this
nature; though I am quite aware that little things please little
minds. Yes, I have decreed the boards to be taken up after lunch
under Richards's auspices. I have no doubt it will be vastly
interesting to a certain type of so-called intellect; but any boy of
my house or another's found on the dormitory stairs will _ipso_facto_
render himself liable to three hundred lines."
The boys did not collect on the stairs, but most of them waited
outside King's. Richards had been bound to cry the news from the
attic window, and, if possible, to exhibit the corpse.
"'Tis a cat, a dead cat!" Richards's face showed purple at the window.
He had been in the chamber of death and on his knees for some time.
"Cat be blowed!" cried McTurk. "It's a dead fag left over from last
term. Three cheers for King's dead fag!"
They cheered lustily.
"Show it, show it! Let's have a squint at it!" yelled the juniors.
"Give her to the Bug-hunters." (This was the Natural History
Society). "The cat looked at the King--and died of it! Hoosh! Yai!
Yaow! Maiow! Ftzz!" were some of the cries that followed.
Again Richards appeared.
"She've been"--he checked himself suddenly--"dead a long taime."
The school roared.
"Well, come on out for a walk," said Stalky in a well-chosen pause.
"It's all very disgustin', and I do hope the Lazar-house won't do it
"Do what?" a King's boy cried furiously.
"Kill a poor innocent cat every time you want to get off washing. It's
awfully hard to distinguish between you as it is. I prefer the cat, I
must say. She isn't quite so whiff. What are you goin' to do,
"_Je_vais_gloater_. _Je_vais_gloater_tout_le_ blessed afternoon.
And it seemed good to them so to do.
Down in the basement, where the gas flickers and the boots stand in
racks, Richards, amid his blacking-brushes, held forth to Oke of the
Common-room, Gumbly of the dining-halls, and fair Lena of the
"Yiss. Her were in a shockin' staate an' condition. Her nigh made me
sick, I tal 'ee. But I rowted un out, and I rowted un out, an' I made
all shipshape, though her smelt like to bilges."
"Her died mousin', I reckon, poor thing," said Lena.
"Then her moused different to any made cat o' God's world, Lena. I up
with the top-board, an' she were lying on her back, an' I turned un
ovver with the brume-handle, an' 'twas her back was all covered with
the plaster from 'twixt the lathin'. Yiss, I tal 'ee. An' under her
head there lay, like, so's to say, a little pillow o' plaster druv up
in front of her by raison of her slidin' along on her back. No cat
niver went mousin' on her back, Lena. Some one had shoved her along
right underneath, so far as they could shove un. Cats don't make
theyselves pillows for to die on. Shoved along, she were, when she
was settin' for to be cold, laike."
"Oh, yeou'm too clever to live, Fatty. Yeou go get wed an' taught some
sense," said Lena, the affianced of Gumbly.
"Larned a little 'fore iver some maidens was born. Sarved in the
Queen's Navy, I have, where yeou'm taught to use your eyes. Yeou go
'tend your own business, Lena."
"Do 'ee mean what you'm been tellin' us?" said Oke.
"Ask me no questions, I'll give 'ee no lies. Bullet-hole clane thru
from side to side, an' tu heart-ribs broke like withies. I seed un
when I turned un ovver. They're clever, oh, they'm clever, but
they'm not too clever for old Richards! 'Twas on the born tip o' my
tongue to tell, tu, but... he said us niver washed, he did. Let his
dom boys call us 'stinkers,' he did. Sarve un dom well raight, I
Richards spat on a fresh boot and fell to his work, chuckling.
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.
"Now remember," he said, when the conversation turned that way, "I
impute nothing. But every time that any one has taken direct steps
against Number Five study, the issue has been more or less
humiliating to the taker."
"I can't admit that. I pulverize the egregious Beetle daily for his
soul's good; and the others with him," said King.
"Well, take your own case, King, and go back a couple of years. Do you
remember when Prout and you were on their track for hutting and
trespass, wasn't it? Have you forgotten Colonel Dabney?"
The others laughed. King did not care to be reminded of his career as
"That was one instance. Again, when you had rooms below them--I always
said that that was entering the lion's den--you turned them out."
"For making disgusting noises. Surely, Gillett, you don't excuse--"
"All I say is that you turned them out. That same evening your study
"By Rabbits-Eggs--most beastly drunk--from the road," said King. "What
The Reverend John went on.
"Lastly, they conceive that aspersions are cast upon their personal
cleanliness--a most delicate matter with all boys. Ve-ry good.
Observe how, in each case, the punishment fits the crime. A week
after your house calls them 'stinkers,' King, your house is, not to
put too fine a point on it, stunk out by a dead cat who chooses to
die in the one spot where she can annoy you most. Again the long arm
of coincidence! _Summa_. You accuse them of trespass. Through some
absurd chain of circumstances--they may or may not be at the other
end of it--you and Prout are made to appear as trespassers. You evict
them. For a time your study is made untenable. I have drawn the
parallel in the last case. Well?"
"She was under the centre of White's dormitory," said King. "There are
double floor-boards there to deaden noise. No boy, even in my own
house, could possibly have pried up the boards without leaving some
trace--and Rabbits-Eggs was phenomenally drunk that other night."
"They are singularly favored by fortune. That is all I ever said.
Personally, I like them immensely, and I believe I have a little of
their confidence. I confess I like being called 'Padre.' They are at
peace with me; consequently I am not treated to bogus confessions of
"You mean Mason's case?" said Prout heavily. "That always struck me as
peculiarly scandalous. I thought the Head should have taken up the
matter more thoroughly. Mason may be misguided, but at least he is
thoroughly sincere and means well."
"I confess I cannot agree with you, Prout," said the Reverend John.
"He jumped at some silly tale of theft on their part; accepted
another boy's evidence without, so far as I can see, any inquiry;
and--frankly, I think he deserved all he got."
"They deliberately outraged Mason's best feelings," said Prout. "A
word to me on their part would have saved the whole thing. But they
preferred to lure him on; to play on his ignorance of their
"That may be," said King, "but I don't like Mason. I dislike him for
the very reason that Prout advances to his credit. He means well."
"Our criminal tradition is not theft--among ourselves, at least," said
"For the head of a house that raided seven head of cattle from the
innocent pot-wallopers of Northam, isn't that rather a sweeping
statement?" said Macrae.
"Precisely so," said Hartopp, unabashed. "That, with gate-lifting, and
a little poaching and hawk-hunting on the cliffs, is our salvation."
"It does us far more harm as a school--" Prout began.
"Than any hushed-up scandal could? Quite so. Our reputation among the
farmers is most unsavory. But I would much sooner deal with any
amount of ingenious crime of that nature than--some other offenses."
"They may be all right, but they are unboylike, abnormal, and, in my
opinion, unsound," Prout insisted. "The moral effect of their
performances must pave the way for greater harm. It makes me doubtful
how to deal with them. I might separate them."
"You might, of course; but they have gone up the school together for
six years. _I_ shouldn't care to do it," said Macrae.
"They use the editorial 'we,'" said King, irrelevantly. "It annoys me.
'Where's your prose, Corkran?' 'Well, sir, we haven't quite done it
yet.' 'We'll bring it in a minute,' and so on. And the same with the
"There's great virtue in that 'we,'" said little Hartopp. "You know I
take them for trig. McTurk may have some conception of the meaning of
it; but Beetle is as the brutes that perish about sines and cosines.
He copies serenely from Stalky, who positively rejoices in
"Why don't you stop it?" said Prout.
"It rights itself at the exams. Then Beetle shows up blank sheets, and
trusts to his 'English' to save him from a fall. I fancy he spends
most of his time with me in writing verse."
"I wish to Heaven he would transfer a little of his energy in that
direction to Elegiaes." King jerked himself upright. "He is, with the
single exception of Stalky, the very vilest manufacturer of
'barbarous hexameters' that I have ever dealt with."
"The work is combined in that study," said the chaplain. "Stalky does
the mathematics, McTurk the Latin, and Beetle attends to their
English and French. At least, when he was in the sick-house last
"Malingering," Prout interjected.
"Quite possibly. I found a very distinct falling off in their 'Roman
d'un Jeune Homme Pauvre' translations."
"I think it is profoundly immoral," said Prout. "I've always been
opposed to the study system."
"It would be hard to find any study where the boys don't help each
other; but in Number Five the thing has probably been reduced to a
system," said little Hartopp. "They have a system in most things."
"They confess as much," said the Reverend John. "I've seen McTurk
being hounded up the stairs to elegise the 'Elegy in a Churchyard,'
while Beetle and Stalky went to punt-about."
"It amounts to systematic cribbing," said Prout, his voice growing
deeper and deeper.
"No such thing," little Hartopp returned. "You can't teach a cow the
"In intention it is cribbing."
"But we spoke under the seal of the confessional, didn't we?" said the
"You say you've heard them arranging their work in this way, Gillett,"
"Good Heavens! Don't make me Queen's evidence, my dear fellow. Hartopp
is equally incriminated. If they ever found out that I had sneaked,
our relations would suffer--and I value them."
"I think your attitude in this matter is weak," said Prout, looking
round for support. "It would be really better to break up the
study--for a while--wouldn't it?"
"Oh, break it up by all means," said Macrae. "We shall see then if
Gillett's theory holds water."
"Be wise, Prout. Leave them alone, or calamity will overtake you; and
what is much more important, they will be annoyed with me. I am too
fat, alas! to be worried by bad boys. Where are you going?"
"Nonsense! They would not dare---but I am going to think this out,"
said Prout. "It needs thought. In intention they cribbed, and I must
think out my duty."
"He's perfectly capable of putting the boys on their honor. It's _I_
that am a fool." The Reverend John looked round remorsefully. "Never
again will I forget that a master is not a man. Mark my words," said
the Reverend John. "There will be trouble."
But by the yellow Tiber
Was tumult and affright.
Out of the blue sky (they were still rejoicing over the cat war) Mr.
Prout had dropped into Number Five, read them a lecture on the
enormity of cribbing, and bidden them return to the form-rooms on
Monday. They had raged, solo and chorus, all through the peaceful
Sabbath, for their sin was more or less the daily practice of all the
"What's the good of cursing?" said Stalky at last. "We're all in the
same boat. We've got to go back and consort with the house. A locker
in the form-room, and a seat at prep. in Number Twelve." (He looked
regretfully round the cozy study which McTurk, their leader in
matters of Art, had decorated with a dado, a stencil, and cretonne
"Yes! Heffy lurchin' into the form-rooms like a frowzy old retriever,
to see if we aren't up to something. You know he never leaves his
house alone, these days," said McTurk. "Oh, it will be giddy!"
"Why aren't you down watchin' cricket? I like a robust, healthy boy.
You mustn't frowst in a form. room. Why don't you take an interest in
your house? Yah!" quoted Beetle.
"Yes, why don't we? Let's! We'll take an interest in the house. We'll
take no end of interest in the house! He hasn't had us in the
form-rooms for a year. We've learned a lot since then. Oh, we'll make
it a be-autiful house before we've done! 'Member that chap in 'Eric'
or 'St. Winifred's'--Belial somebody? I'm goin' to be Belial," said
Stalky, with an ensnaring grin.
"Right O," said Beetle, "and I'll be Mammon. I'll lend money at
usury--that's what they do at all schools accordin' to the B.O.P.
Penny a week on a shillin'. That'll startle Heffy's weak intellect.
You can be Lucifer, Turkey."
"What have I got to do?" McTurk also smiled.
"Head conspiracies--and cabals--and boycotts. Go in for that 'stealthy
intrigue' that Heffy is always talkin' about. Come on!"
The house received them on their fall with the mixture of jest and
sympathy always extended to boys turned out of their study. The known
aloofness of the three made them more interesting.
"Quite like old times, ain't it?" Stalky selected a locker and flung
in his books. "We've come to sport with you, my young friends, for a
while, because our beloved house-master has hove us out of our
"'Serve you jolly well right," said Orrin, "you cribbers!"
"This will never do," said Stalky. "We can't maintain our giddy
prestige, Orrin, de-ah, if you make these remarks."
They wrapped themselves lovingly about the boy, thrust him to the
opened window, and drew down the sash to the nape of his neck. With
an equal swiftness they tied his thumbs together behind his back with
a piece of twine, and then, because he kicked furiously, removed his
shoes. There Mr. Prout happened to find him a few minutes later,
guillotined and helpless, surrounded by a convulsed crowd who would
Stalky, in an upper form-room, had gathered himself allies against
vengeance. Orrin presently tore up at the head of a boarding party,
and the form-room grew one fog of dust through which boys wrestled,
stamped, shouted, and yelled. A desk was carried away in the tumult,
a knot of warriors reeled into and split a door-panel, a window was
broken, and a gas-jet fell. Under cover of the confusion the three
escaped to the corridor, whence they called in and sent up passers-by
to the fray.
"Rescue, Kings! Kings! Kings! Number Twelve form-room! Rescue,
Prouts--Prouts! Rescue, Macraes! Rescue, Hartopps!"
The juniors hurried out like bees aswarm, asking no questions,
clattered up the staircase, and added themselves to the embroilment.
"Not bad for the first evening's work," said Stalky, rearranging his
collar. "I fancy Prout'll be somewhat annoyed. We'd better establish
an alibi." So they sat on Mr. King's railings till prep.
"You see," quoth Stalky, as they strolled up to prep. with the ignoble
herd, "if you get the houses well mixed up an' scufflin', it's even
bettin' that some ass will start a real row. Hullo, Orrin, you look
"It was all your fault, you beast! You started it. We've got two
hundred lines apiece, and Heffy's lookin' for you. Just see what that
swine Malpas did to my eye!"
"I like your saying we started it. Who called us cribbers? Can't your
infant mind connect cause and effect yet? Some day you'll find out
that it don't pay to jest with Number Five."
"Where's that shillin' you owe me?" said Beetle suddenly.
Stalky could not see Prout behind him, but returned the lead without a
quaver. "I only owed you ninepence, you old usurer."
"You've forgotten the interest," said McTurk. "A halfpenny a week per
bob is Beetle's charge. You must be beastly rich, Beetle."
"Well, Beetle lent me sixpence." Stalky came to a full stop and made
as to work it out on his fingers. "Sixpence on the nineteenth, didn't
"Yes; hut you've forgotten you paid no interest on the other bob--the
one I lent you before."
"But you took my watch as security." The game was developing itself
"Never mind. Pay me my interest, or I'll charge you interest on
interest. Remember, I've got your note-of-hand!" shouted Beetle.
"You are a cold-blooded Jew," Stalky groaned.
"Hush!" said McTurk very loudly indeed, and started as Prout came upon
"I didn't see you in that disgraceful affair in the form-room just
now," said he.
"What, sir? We're just come up from Mr. King's," said Stalky. "Please,
sir, what am I to do about prep.? They've broken the desk you told me
to sit at, and the form's just swimming with ink."
"Find another seat--find another seat. D'you expect me to dry-nurse
you? I wish to know whether you are in the habit of advancing money
to your associates, Beetle?"
"No, sir; not as a general rule, sir."
"It is a most reprehensible habit. I thought that my house, at least,
would be free from it. Even with my opinion of you, I hardly thought
it was one of your vices."
"There's no harm in lending money, sir, is there?"
"I am not going to bandy words with you on your notions of morality.
How much have you lent Corkran?"
"I--I don't quite know," said Beetle. It is difficult to improvise a
going concern on the spur of the minute.
"You seemed certain enough just now."
"I think it's two and fourpence," said McTurk, with a glance of cold
scorn at Beetle. In the hopelessly involved finances of the study
there was just that sum to which both McTurk and Beetle laid claim,
as their share in the pledging of Stalky's second-best Sunday
trousers. But Stalky had maintained for two terms that the money was
his "commission" for effecting the pawn; and had, of course, spent it
on a study "brew."
"Understand this, then. You are not to continue your operations as a
money-lender. Two and four-pence, you said, Corkran?"
Stalky had said nothing, and continued so to do.
"Your influence for evil is quite strong enough without buying a hold
over your companions." He felt in his pockets, and (oh joy!) produced
a florin and fourpence. "Bring me what you call Corkran's
note-of-hand, and be thankful that I do not carry the matter any
further. The money is stopped from your pocket-money, Corkran. The
receipt to my study, at once!"
Little they cared! Two and fourpence in a lump is worth six weekly
sixpences any hungry day of the week.
"But what the dooce is a note-of-hand?" said Beetle. "I only read
about it in a book."
"Now you've jolly well got to make one," said Stalky.
"Yes--but our ink don't turn black till next day. S'pose he'll spot
"Not him. He's too worried," said McTurk. "Sign your name on a bit of
impot-paper, Stalky, and write, 'I O U two and fourpence.' Aren't you
grateful to me for getting that out of Prout? Stalky'd never have
paid... Why, you ass!"
Mechanically Beetle had handed over the money to Stalky as treasurer
of the study. The custom of years is not lightly broken. In return
for the document, Prout expounded to Beetle the enormity of
money-lending, which, like everything except compulsory cricket,
corrupted houses and destroyed good feeling among boys, made youth
cold and calculating, and opened the door to all evil. Finally, did
Beetle know of any other cases? If so, it was his duty as proof of
repentance to let his house-master know. No names need be mentioned.
Beetle did not know--at least, he was not quite sure, sir. How could
he give evidence against his friends? The house might, of
course--here he feigned an anguished delicacy--be full of it. He was
not in a position to say. He had not met with any open competition in
his trade; but if Mr. Prout considered it was a matter that affected
the honor of the house (Mr. Prout did consider it precisely that),
perhaps the house-prefects would be better...
He spun it out till half-way through prep.
"And," said the amateur Shylock, returning to the form-room and
dropping at Stalky's side, "if he don't think the house is putrid
with it, I'm seveiral Dutch-men--that's all... I've been to Mr.
Prout's study, sir." This to the prep.-master. "He said I could sit
where I liked, sir... Oh, he is just tricklin' with emotion... Yes,
sir, I'm only askin' Corkran to let me have a dip in his ink."
After prayers, on the road to the dormitories, Harrison and Craye,
senior house-prefects, zealous in their office, waylaid them with
great anger. "What have you been doing to Heffy this time, Beetle?
He's been jawing us all the evening."
"What has His Serene Transparency been vexin' you for?" said McTurk.
"About Beetle lendin' money to Stalky," began Harrison; "and then
Beetle went and told him that there was any amount of money-lendin'
in the house."
"No, you don't," said Beetle, sitting on a boot-basket. "That's just
what I didn't tell him. I spoke the giddy truth. He asked me if there
was much of it in the house; and I said I didn't know."
"He thinks you're a set of filthy Shylocks," said McTurk. "It's just
as well for you he don't think you're burglars. You know he never
gets a notion out of his conscientious old head."
"Well-meanin' man. Did it all for the best." Stalky curled gracefully
round the stair-rail. "Head in a drain-pipe. Full confession in the
left boot. Bad for the honor of the house--very."
"Shut up," said Harrison. "You chaps always behave as if you were
jawin' us when we come to jaw you."
"You're a lot too cheeky," said Craye.
"I don't quite see where the cheek comes in, except on your part, in
interferin' with a private matter between me an' Beetle after it has
been settled by Prout." Stalky winked cheerfully at the others.
"That's the worst of clever little swots," said McTurk, addressing the
gas. "They get made prefects before they have any tact, and then they
annoy chaps who could really help 'em to look after the honor of the
"We won't trouble you to do that!" said Craye hotly.
"Then what are you badgerin' us for?" said Beetle. "On your own
showing, you've been so beastly slack, looking after the house, that
Prout believes it's a nest of money-lenders. I've told him that I've
lent money to Stalky, and no one else. I don't know whether he
believes me, but that finishes my case. The rest is your business."
"Now we find out," Stalky's voice rose, "that there is apparently an
organized conspiracy throughout the house. For aught we know, the
fags may be lendin' and borrowin' far beyond their means. We aren't
responsible for it. We're only the rank and file."
"Are you surprised we don't wish to associate with the house?" said
McTurk, with dignity. "We've kept ourselves to ourselves in our study
till we were turned out, and now we find ourselves let in for for
this sort of thing. It's simply disgraceful."
"Then you hector and bullyrag us on the stairs," said Stalky, "about
matters that are your business entirely. You know we aren't
"You threatened us with a prefect's lickin' just now," said Beetle,
boldly inventing as he saw the bewilderment in the faces of the
enemy. "And if you expect you'll gain anything from us by your way of
approachin' us, you're jolly well mistaken. That's all. Good-night."
They clattered upstairs, injured virtue on every inch of their backs.
"But--but what the dickens have we done?" said Harrison, amazedly, to
"I don't know. Only--it always happens that way when one has anything
to do with them. They're so beastly plausible."
And Mr. Prout called the good boys into his study anew, and succeeded
in sinking both his and their innocent minds ten fathoms deeper in
blindfolded bedazement. He spoke of steps and measures, of tone and
loyalty in the house and to the house, and urged them to take up the
So they demanded of Beetle whether he had any connection with any
other establishment. Beetle promptly went to his house-master, and
wished to know by what right Harrison and Craye had reopened a matter
already settled between him and his house-master. In injured
innocence no boy excelled Beetle.
Then it occurred to Prout that he might have been unfair to the
culprit, who had not striven to deny or palliate his offense. He sent
for Harrison and Craye, reprehending them very gently for the tone
they had adopted to a repentant sinner, and when they returned to
their study, they used the language of despair. They then made
headlong inquisition through the house, driving the fags to the edge
of hysterics, and unearthing, with tremendous pomp and parade, the
natural and inevitable system of small loans that prevails among
"You see, Harrison, Thornton minor lent me a penny last Saturday,
because I was fined for breaking the window; and I spent it at
Keyte's. I didn't know there was any harm in it. And Wray major
borrowed twopence from me when my uncle sent me a post-office
order--I cashed it at Keyte's--for five bob; but he'll pay me back
before the holidays. We didn't know there was anything wrong in it."
They waded through hours of this kind of thing, but found no usury, or
anything approaching to Beetle's gorgeous scale of interest. The
seniors--for the school had no tradition of deference to prefects
outside compulsory games--told them succinctly to go about their
business. They would not give evidence on any terms. Harrison was one
idiot, and Craye was another; but the greatest of all, they said, was
When a house is thoroughly upset, however good its conscience, it
breaks into knots and coteries--small gatherings in the twilight,
box-room committees, and groups in the corridor. And when from group
to group, with an immense affectation of secrecy, three wicked boys
steal, crying "_Cave'_" when there is no need of caution, and
whispering "Don't tell!" on the heels of trumpery confidences that
instant invented, a very fine air of plot and intrigue can be woven
round such a house.
At the end of a few days, it dawned on Prout that he moved in an
atmosphere of perpetual ambush. Mysteries hedged him on all sides,
warnings ran before his heavy feet, and countersigns were muttered
behind his attentive back. McTurk and Stalky invented many absurd and
idle phrases--catch-words that swept through the house as fire
through stubble. It was a rare jest, and the only practical outcome of
the Usury Commission, that one boy should say to a friend, with awful
gravity, "Do you think there's much of it going on in the house?" The
other would reply, "Well, one can't be too careful, you know." The
effect on a house-master of humane conscience and good intent may be
imagined. Again, a man who has sincerely devoted himself to gaining
the esteem of his charges does not like to hear himself described,
even at a distance, as "Popularity Prout" by a dark and scowling Celt
with a fluent tongue. A rumor that stories--unusual stories--are told
in the form-rooms, between the lights, by a boy who does not command
his confidence, agitates such a man; and even elaborate and tender
politeness--for the courtesy wise-grown men offer to a bewildered
child was the courtesy that Stalky wrapped round Prout--restores not
his peace of mind.
"The tone of the house seems changed--changed for the worse," said
Prout to Harrison and Craye. "Have you noticed it?. I don't for an
He never imputed anything; but, on the other hand, he never did
anything else, and, with the best intentions in the world, he had
reduced the house-prefects to a state as nearly bordering on nervous
irritation as healthy boys can know. Worst of all, they began at
times to wonder whether Stalky & Co. had not some truth in their
often-repeated assertions that Prout was a gloomy ass.
"As you know, I am not the kind of man who puts himself out for every
little thing he hears. I believe in letting the house work out their
own salvation--with a light guiding hand on the reins, of course. But
there is a perceptible lack of reverence---a lower tone in matters
that touch the honor of the house, a sort of hardness."
Oh, Prout he is a nobleman, a nobleman, a nobleman!
Our Heffy is a nobleman--
He does an awful lot,
Because his popularity
His giddy popularity
Would suffer did he not!
The study door stood ajar; and the song, borne by twenty clear voices,
came faint from a form-room. The fags rather liked the tune; the
words were Beetle's.
"That's a thing no sensible man objects to," said Prout with a
lop-sided smile; "but you know straws show which way the wind blows.
Can you trace it to any direct influence? I am speaking to you now as
heads of the house."
"There isn't the least doubt of it," said Harrison angrily. "I know
what you mean, sir. It all began when Number Five study came to the
form-rooms. There's no use blinkin' it, Craye. You know that, too."
"They make things rather difficult for us, sometimes," said Craye.
"It's more their manner than anything else, that Harrison means."
"Do they hamper you in the discharge of your duties, then?"
"Well, no, sir. They only look on and grin--and turn up their noses
"Ah," said Prout sympathetically.
"I think, sir," said Craye, plunging into the business boldly, "it
would be a great deal better if they wore sent back to their
study--better for the house. They are rather old to be knocking about
"They are younger than Orrin, or Flint, and a dozen others that I can
"Yes, sir; but that's different, somehow. They're rather influential.
They have a knack of upsettin' things in a quiet way that one can't
take hold of. At least, if one does--"
"And you think they would be better in their own study again?"
Emphatically Harrison and Craye were of that opinion. As Harrison said
to Craye, afterwards, "They've weakened our authority. They're too
big to lick; they've made an exhibition of us over this usury
business, and we're a laughing-stock to the rest of the school. I'm
going up (for Sandhurst, understood) next term. They've managed to
knock me out of half my work already with their--their lunacy. If they
go back to their study we may have a little peace."
"Hullo, Harrison." McTurk ambled round the corner, with a roving eye
on all possible horizons. "Bearin' up, old man? That's right. Live it
down! Live it down!"
"What d'you mean?"
"You look a little pensive," said McTurk. "Exhaustin' job
superintendin' the honor of the house, ain't it? By the way, how are
you off for mares'-nests?"
"Look here," said Harrison, hoping for instant reward. "We've
recommended Prout to let you go back to your study."
"The dooce you have! And who under the sun are _you_ to interfere
between us and our housemaster?. Upon my Sam, you two try us very
hard--you do, indeed. Of course we don't know how far you abuse your
position to prejudice us with Mr. Prout; but when you deliberately
stop me to tell me you've been makin' arrangements behind our
back--in secret--with Prout--I--I don't know really what we ought to
"That's beastly unfair! "cried Craye.
"It is." McTurk had adopted a ghastly solemnity that sat well on his
long, lean face. "Hang it all! A prefect's one thing and an usher's
another; but you seem to combine 'em. You recommend this--you
recommend that! _You_ say how and when we go back to our study!"
"But--but--we thought you'd like it, Turkey. We did, indeed. You know
you'll be ever so much more comfortable there." Harrison's voice was
McTurk turned away as though to hide his emotions.
"They're broke!" He hunted up Stalky and Beetle in a box-room.
"They're sick! They've been beggin' Heffy to let us go back to
Number Five. Poor devils! Poor little devils!"
"It's the olive branch," was Stalky's comment. "It's the giddy white
flag, by gum! Come to think of it, we _have_ metagrobolized 'em."
Just after tea that day, Mr. Prout sent for them to say that if they
chose to ruin their future by neglecting their work, it was entirely
their own affair. He wished them, however, to understand that their
presence in the form-rooms could not be tolerated one hour longer. He
personally did not care to think of the time he must spend in
eliminating the traces of their evil influences. How far Beetle had
pandered to the baser side of youthful imagination he would ascertain
later; and Beetle might be sure that if Mr. Prout came across any
"Consequences of what, sir?" said Beetle, genuinely bewildered this
time; and McTurk quietly kicked him on the ankle for being "fetched"
by Prout. Beetle, the house-master continued, knew very well what was
intended. Evil and brief had been their careers under his eye; and
as one standing _in_loco_parentis_ to their yet uncontaminated
associates, he was bound to take his precautions. The return of the
study key closed the sermon.
"But what was the baser-side-of-imagination business?" said Beetle on
"I never knew such an ass as you are for justifyin' yourself," said
McTurk. "I hope I jolly well skinned your ankle. Why do you let
yourself be drawn by everybody?"
"Draws be blowed! I must have tickled him up in some way I didn't know
about. If I'd had a notion of that before, of course I could have
rubbed it in better. It's too late now. What a pity! 'Baser side.'
What _was_ he drivin' at?"
"Never mind," said Stalky. "I knew we could make it a happy little
house. I said so, remember--but I swear I didn't think we'd do it so
"No," said Prout most firmly in Common-room. "I maintain that Gillett
is wrong. True, I let them return to their study."
"With your known views on cribbing, too?" purred little Hartopp. "What
an immoral compromise!"
"One moment," said the Reverend John. "I--we--all of us have exercised
an absolutely heart-breaking discretion for the last ten days. Now we
want to know. Confess--have you known a happy minute since--"
"As regards my house, I have not," said Prout. "But you are entirely
wrong in your estimate of those boys. In justice to the others--in
"Ha! I said it would come to that," murmured the Reverend John.
"--I was forced to send them back. Their moral influence was
And bit by bit he told his tale, beginning with Beetle's usury, and
ending with the house-prefects' appeal.
"Beetle in the _ro'le_ of Shylock is new to me," said King, with
twitching lips. "I heard rumors of it--"
"Before?" said Prout.
"No, after you had dealt with them; but I was careful not to inquire.
I never interfere with--"
"I myself," said Hartopp, "would cheerfully give him five shillings if
he could work out one simple sum in compound interest without three
"Why--why--why!" Mason, the mathematical master, stuttered, a fierce
joy on his face, "you've been had--precisely the same as me!"
"And so you held an inquiry?" Little Hartopp's voice drowned Mason's
ere Prout caught the import of the sentence.
"The boy himself hinted at the existence of a deal of it in the
house," said Prout.
"He is past master in that line," said the chaplain. "But, as regards
the honor of the house--"
"They lowered it in a week. I have striven to build it up for years.
My own house-prefects--and boys do not willingly complain of each
other--besought me to get rid of them. You say you have their
confidence, Gillett: they may tell you another tale. As far as I am
concerned, they may go to the devil in their own way. I'm sick and
tired of them," said Prout bitterly.
But it was the Reverend John, with a smiling countenance, who went to
the devil just after Number Five had cleared away a very pleasant
little brew (it cost them two and fourpence) and was settling down to
"Come in, Padre, come in," said Stalky, thrusting forward the best
chair. "We've only met you official-like these last ten days."
"You were under sentence," said the Reverend John. "I do not consort
"Ah, but we're restored again," said McTurk. "Mr. Prout has
"Without a stain on our characters," said Beetle. "It was a painful
episode, Padre, most painful."
"Now, consider for a while, and perpend, _mes_enfants_. It is about
your characters that I've called to-night. In the language of the
schools, what the dooce _have_ you been up to in Mr. Prout's house?
It isn't anything to laugh over. He says that you so lowered the tone
of the house he had to pack you back to your studies. Is that true?"
"Every word of it, Padre."
"Don't be flippant, Turkey. Listen to me. I've told you very often
that no boys in the school have a greater influence for good or evil
than you have. You know I don't talk about ethics and moral codes,
because I don't believe that the young of the human animal realizes
what they mean for some years to come. All the same, I don't want to
think you've been perverting the juniors. Don't interrupt, Beetle.
Listen to me. Mr. Prout has a notion that you have been corrupting
your associates somehow or other."
"Mr. Prout has so many notions, Padre," said Beetle wearily. "Which
one is this?"
"Well, he tells me that he heard you telling a story in the twilight
in the form-room, in a whisper. And Orrin said, just as he opened the
door, 'Shut up, Beetle; it's too beastly.' Now then?"
"You remember Mrs. Oliphant's 'Beleaguered City' that you lent me
last term?" said. Beetle.
The Padre nodded.
"I got the notion out of that. Only, instead of a city, I made it the
Coll. in a fog--besieged by ghosts of dead boys, who hauled chaps out
of their beds in the dormitory. All the names are quite real. You
tell it in a whisper, you know with the names. Orrin didn't like it
one little bit. None of 'em have ever let me finish it. It gets just
awful at the end part."
"But why in the world didn't you explain to Mr. Prout, instead of
leaving him under the impression--?"
"Padre Sahib," said McTurk, "it isn't the least good explainin' to Mr.
Prout. If he hasn't one impression, he's bound to have another."
"He'd do it with the best o' motives. He's _in_loco_parentis_," purred
"You young demons!" the Reverend John replied. "And am I to understand
that the---the usury business was another of your house-master's
"Well--we helped a little in that," said Stalky. "I did owe Beetle two
and fourpence at least, Beetle says I did, but I never intended to
pay him. Then we started a bit of an argument on the stairs, and--and
Mr. Prout dropped into it accidental. That was how it was, Padre. He
paid me cash down like a giddy Dook (stopped it out of my
pocket-money just the same), and Beetle gave him my note-of-hand all
correct. I don't know what happened after that."
"I was too truthful," said Beetle. "I always am. You see, he was under
an impression, Padre, and I suppose I ought to have corrected that
impression; but of course I couldn't be _quite_ certain that his
house wasn't given over to money-lendin', could I? I thought the
house-prefects might know more about it than I did. They ought to.
They're giddy palladiums of public schools."
"They did, too--by the time they'd finished," said McTurk. "As nice a
pair of conscientious, well-meanin', upright, pure-souled boys as
you'd ever want to meet, Padre. They turned the house upside down
--Harrison and Craye---with the best motives in the world."
"They said so. 'They said it very loud and clear. They went and
shouted in our ear,'" said Stalky.
"My own private impression is that all three of you will infallibly be
hanged," said the Reverend John.
"Why, we didn't do anything," McTurk replied. "It was all Mr. Prout.
Did you ever read a book about Japanese wrestlers? My uncle---he's in
the Navy--gave me a beauty once."
"Don't try to change the subject, Turkey."
"I'm not, sir. I'm givin' an illustration--same as a sermon. These
wrestler-chaps have got sort sort of trick that lets the other chap
do all the work. Than they give a little wriggle, and he upsets
himself. It's called _shibbuwichee_ or _tokonoma_, or somethin'. Mr.
Prout's a _shibbuwicher_. It isn't our fault."
"Did you suppose we went round corruptin' the minds of the fags? "said
Beetle. "They haven't any, to begin with; and if they had, they're
corrupted long ago. I've been a fag, Padre."
"Well, I fancied I knew the normal range of your iniquities; hut if
you take so much trouble to pile up circumstantial evidence against
yourselves, you can't blame any one if--"
"We don't blame any one, Padre. We haven't said a word against Mr.
Prout, have we?" Stalky looked at the others. "We love him. He hasn't
a notion how we love him."
"H'm! You dissemble your love very well. Have you ever thought who got
you turned out of your study in the first place?"