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Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling

Part 4 out of 5

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Even numbers stand fast. Now, leanin' forward from the 'ips, takin'
your time from me."

The dumb-bells rose and fell, clashed and were returned as one. The
boys were experts at the weary game.

"Ve-ry good. I shall be sorry when any of you resume your 'abits of
punctuality. Quietly return dumb-bells. We will now try some simple
drill."

"Ugh! I know that simple drill."

"It would he 'ighly to your discredit if you did not, Muster Corkran.
_At_ the same time, it is not so easy as it looks."

"Bet you a bob, I can drill as well as you, Foxy."

"We'll see later. Now try to imagine you ain't defaulters at all, but
an 'arf company on parade, me bein' your commandin' officer. There's
no call to laugh. If you're lucky, most of you will 'ave to take
drills 'arf your life. Do me a little credit. You've been at it long
enough, goodness knows."

They were formed into fours, marched, wheeled, and countermarched, the
spell of ordered motion strong on them. As Foxy said, they had been
at it a long time.

The gymnasium door opened, revealing McTurk in charge of an old
gentleman.

The Sergeant, leading a wheel, did not see. "Not so bad," he murmured.
"Not 'arf so bad. The pivot-man of the wheel _honly_ marks time,
Muster Swayne. Now, Muster Corkran, you say you know the drill?
Oblige me by takin' over the command and, reversin' my words step by
step, relegate them to their previous formation."

"What's this? What's this?" cried the visitor authoritatively.

"A--a little drill, sir," stammered Foxy, saying nothing of first
causes.

"Excellent--excellent. I only wish there were more of it," he
chirruped. "Don't let me interrupt. You were just going to hand over
to someone, weren't you?"

He sat down, breathing frostily in the chill air. "I shall muck it. I
know I shall," whispered Stalky uneasily; and his discomfort was not
lightened by a murmur from the rear rank that the old gentleman was
General Collinson, a member of the College Board of Council.

"Eh--what?" said Foxy.

"Collinson, K.C.B.--He commanded the Pompadours-my father's old
regiment," hissed Swayne major.

"Take your time," said the visitor. "_I_ know how it feels. Your first
drill--eh?"

"Yes, sir." He drew an unhappy breath. "'Tention. Dress!" The echo of
his own voice restored his confidence.

The wheel was faced about, flung back, broken into fours, and restored
to line without a falter. The official hour of punishment was long
passed, but no one thought of that. They were backing up
Stalky--Stalky in deadly fear lest his voice should crack.

"He does you credit, Sergeant," was the visitor's comment. "A good
drill--and good material to drill. Now, it's an extraordinary thing:
I've been lunching with your head-master and he never told me you had
a cadet-corps in the College."

"We 'aven't, sir. This is only a little drill," said the Sergeant.

"But aren't they keen on it?" said McTurk, speaking for the first
time, with a twinkle in his deep-set eyes.

"Why aren't you in it, though, Willy?"

"Oh, I'm not punctual enough," said McTurk. "The Sergeant only takes
the pick of us."

"Dismiss! Break off!" cried Foxy, fearing an explosion in the ranks.
"I--I ought to have told you, sir, that--"

"But you should have a cadet-corps." The General pursued his own line
of thought. "You _shall_ have a cadet-corps, too, if my
recommendation in Council is any use. I don't know when I've been so
pleased. Boys animated by a spirit like yours should set an example
to the whole school."

"They do," said McTurk.

"Bless my soul! Can it be so late? I've kept my fly waiting half an
hoar. Well, I must run away. Nothing like seeing things for one's
self. Which end of the buildings does one get out at? Will you show
me, Willy? Who was that boy who took the drill?"

"Corkran, I think his name is."

"You ought to know him. That's the kind of boy you should cultivate.
Evidently an unusual sort. A wonderful sight. Five and twenty boys,
who, I dare say, would much sooner be playing cricket--"(it was the
depth of winter; but grown people, especially those who have lived
long in foreign parts, make these little errors, and McTurk did not
correct him)--"drilling for the sheer love of it. A shame to waste so
much good stuff; but I think I can carry my point."

"An' who's your friend with the white whiskers?" demanded Stalky, on
McTurk's return to the study.

"General Collinson. He comes over to shoot with my father sometimes.
Rather a decent old bargee, too. He said I ought to cultivate your
acquaintance, Stalky."

"Did he tip you?" McTurk exhibited a blessed whole sovereign.

"Ah," said Stalky, annexing it, for he was treasurer. "We'll have a
hefty brew. You'd pretty average cool cheek, Turkey, to jaw about
our keenness an' punctuality."

"Didn't the old boy know we were defaulters?" said Beetle.

"Not him. He came down to lunch with the Head. I found him pokin'
about the place on his own hook afterwards, an' I thought I'd show
him the giddy drill. When I found he was so pleased, I wasn't goin'
to damp his giddy ardor. He mightn't ha' given me the quid if I had."

"Wasn't old Foxy pleased? Did you see him get pink behind the ears?"
said Beetle. "It was an awful score for him. Didn't we back him up
beautifully? Let's go down to Keyte's and get some cocoa and
sassingers."

They overtook Foxy, speeding down to retail the adventure to Keyte,
who in his time had been Troop Sergeant-Major in a cavalry regiment,
and now, war-worn veteran, was local postmaster and confectioner.

"You owe us something," said Stalky, with meaning.

"I'm 'ighly grateful, Muster Corkran. I've 'ad to run against you
pretty hard in the way o' business, now and then, but I will say that
outside o' business--bounds an' smokin', an' such like--I don't wish
to have a more trustworthy young gentleman to 'elp me out of a hole.
The way you 'andled the drill was beautiful, though I say it. Now,
if you come regular henceforward--"

"But he'll have to be late three times a week," said Beetle. "You
can't expect a chap to do that--just to please you, Foxy."

"Ah, that's true. Still, if you could manage it--and you, Muster
Beetle--it would give you a big start when the cadet-corps is formed.
I expect the General will recommend it."

They raided Keyte's very much at their own sweet will, for the old
man, who knew them well, was deep in talk with Foxy. "I make what
we've taken seven and six," Stalky called at last over the counter;
"but you'd better count for yourself."

"No--no. I'd take your word any day, Muster Corkran.--In the
Pompadours, was he, Sergeant? We lay with them once at Umballa, I
think it was."

"I don't know whether this ham-and-tongue tin is eighteen pence or one
an' four."

"Say one an' fourpence, Muster Corkran... Of course, Sergeant, if it
was any use to give my time, I'd be pleased to do it, but I'm too
old. I'd like to see a drill again."

"Oh, come on, Stalky," cried McTurk. "He isn't listenin' to you. Chuck
over the money."

"I want the quid changed, you ass. Keyte! Private Keyte! Corporal
Keyte! Terroop-Sergeant-Major Keyte, will you give me change for a
quid?"

"Yes--yes, of course. Seven an' six." He stared abstractedly, pushed
the silver over, and melted away into the darkness of the back room.

"Now those two'll jaw about the Mutiny till tea-time," said Beetle.

"Old Keyte was at Sobraon," said Stalky. "Hear him talk about that
sometimes! Beats Foxy hollow."

The Head's face, inscrutable as ever, was bent over a pile of
letters.

"What do you think?" he said at last to the Reverend John Gillett.

"It's a good idea. There's no denying that--an estimable idea."

"We concede that much. Well?"

"I have my doubts about it--that's all. The more I know of boys the
less do I profess myself capable of following their moods; but I own
I shall be very much surprised if the scheme takes. It--it isn't the
temper of the school. We prepare for the Army."

"My business--in _this_ matter--is to carry out the wishes of the
Council. They demand a volunteer cadet-corps. A volunteer cadet-corps
will be furnished. I have suggested, however, that we need not embark
upon the expense of uniforms till we are drilled. General Collinson
is sending us fifty lethal weapons--cut-down Sniders, he calls
them--all carefully plugged."

"Yes, that is necessary in a school that uses loaded saloon-pistols to
the extent we do." The Reverend John smiled.

"Therefore there will be no outlay except the Sergeant's time."

"But if he fails you will be blamed."

"Oh, assuredly. I shall post a notice in the corridor this afternoon,
and--"

"I shall watch the result."

"Kindly keep your 'ands off the new arm-rack." Foxy wrestled with a
turbulent crowd in the gymnasium. "Nor it won't do even a condemned
Snider any good to be continual snappin' the lock, Mr. Swayne.--Yiss,
the uniforms will come later, when we're more proficient; at present
we will confine ourselves to drill. I am 'ere for the purpose o'
takin' the names o' those willin' to join.--Put down that Snider,
Muster Hogan!"

"What are you goin' to do, Beetle?" said a voice.

"I've had all the drill _I_ want, thank you."

"What! After all you've learned? Come on! Don't be a scab! They'll
make you corporal in a week," cried Stalky.

"I'm not goin' up for the Army." Beetle touched his spectacles.

"Hold on a shake, Foxy," said Hogan. "Where are you goin' to drill
us?"

"Here--in the gym--till you are fit an' capable to be taken out on the
road." The Sergeant threw a chest.

"For all the Northam cads to look at? Not good enough, Foxibus."

"Well, we won't make a point of it. You learn your drill first, an'
later we'll see."

"Hullo," said Ansell of Macrea's, shouldering through the mob. "What's
all this about a giddy cadet-corps?"

"It will save you a lot o' time at Sandburst," the Sergeant replied
promptly. "You'll be dismissed your drills early if you go up with a
good groundin' before'and."

"Hm! 'Don't mind learnin' my drill, but I'm not goin' to ass about the
country with a toy Snider. Perowne, what are you goin' to do? Hogan's
joinin'."

"Don't know whether I've the time," said Perowne. "I've got no end of
extra-tu as it is."

"Well, call this extra-tu," said Ansell. "'Twon't take us long to mug
up the drill."

"Oh, that's right enough, but what about marchin' in public?" said
Hogan, not foreseeing that three years later he should die in the
Burmese sun-light outside Minhla Fort.

"Afraid the uniform won't suit your creamy complexion?" McTurk asked
with a villainous sneer.

"Shut up, Turkey. You aren't goin' up for the Army."

"No, but I'm goin' to send a substitute. Hi! Morrell an' Wake! You two
fags by the arm-rack, you've got to volunteer."

Blushing deeply--they had been too shy to apply before--the youngsters
sidled towards the Sergeant.

"But I don't want the little chaps--not at first," said the Sergeant
disgustedly. "I want--I'd like some of the Old Brigade the
defaulters--to stiffen 'em a bit."

"Don't be ungrateful, Sergeant. They're nearly as big as you get 'em
in the Army now." McTurk read the papers of those years and could be
trusted for general information, which he used as he used his
"tweaker." Yet he did not know that Wake minor would be a bimbashi of
the Egyptian Army ere his thirtieth year.

Hogan, Swayne, Stalky, Perowne, and Ansell were deep in consultation
by the vaulting-horse, Stalky as usual laying down the law. The
Sergeant watched them uneasily, knowing that many waited on their
lead.

"Foxy don't like my recruits," said McTurk, in a pained tone, to
Beetle. "You get him some."

Nothing loath, Beetle pinioned two more fags--each no taller than a
carbine. "Here you are, Foxy. Here's food for powder. Strike for your
hearths an' homes, you young brutes--an' be jolly quick about it."

"Still he isn't happy," said McTurk.

"For the way we have with our Army
Is the way we have with our Navy."

Here Beetle joined in. They had found the poem in an old volume of
"Punch," and it seemed to cover the situation:

"An' both of 'em led to adversity,
Which nobody can deny!"

"You be quiet, young gentlemen. If you can't 'elp--don't 'inder."
Foxy's eye was still on the council by the horse. Carter, White, and
Tyrrell, all boys of influence, had joined it. The rest fingered the
rifles irresolutely. "Wait a shake," cried Stalky. "Can't we turn out
those rotters before we get to work?"

"Certainly," said Foxy. "Any one wishful to join will stay 'ere. Those
who do not so intend will go out, quietly closin' the door be'ind
'em."

Half a dozen of the earnest-minded rushed at them, and they had just
time to escape into the corridor.

"Well, why don't you join?" Beetle asked, resettling his collar.

"Why didn't you?"

"What's the good? We aren't goin' up for the Army. Besides, I know the
drill--all except the manual, of course. 'Wonder what they're doin'
inside?"

"Makin' a treaty with Foxy. Didn't you hear Stalky say: 'That's what
we'll do--an' if he don't like it he can lump it'? They'll use Foxy
for a cram. Can't you see, you idiot? They're goin' up for Sandhurst
or the Shop in less than a year. They'll learn their drill an' then
they'll drop it like a shot. D'you suppose chaps with their amount of
extra-tu are takin' up volunteerin' for fun?"

"Well, I don't know. I thought of doin' a poem about it--rottin' 'em,
you know--'The Ballad of the Dogshooters'--eh?"

"I don't think you can, because King'll be down on the corps like a
cartload o' bricks. He hasn't been consulted, he's sniffin' round the
notice-board now. Let's lure him." They strolled up carelessly
towards the honse-master--a most meek couple.

"How's this?" said King with a start of feigned surprise. "Methought
you would be learning to fight for your country."

"I think the company's full, sir," said McTurk.

"It's a great pity," sighed Beetle.

"Forty valiant defenders, have we, then? How noble! What devotion! I
presume that it is possible that a desire to evade their normal
responsibilities may be at the bottom of this zeal. Doubtless they
will be accorded special privileges, like the Choir and the Natural
History Society--one must not say Bug-hunters."

"Oh, I suppose so, sir," said McTurk, cheerily. "The Head hasn't said
anything about it yet, but he will, of course."

"Oh, sure to."

"It is just possible, my Beetle," King wheeled on the last speaker,
"that the house-masters--a necessary but somewhat neglected factor in
our humble scheme of existence--may have a word to say on the matter.
Life, for the young at least, is not all weapons and munitions of
war. Education is incidentally one of our aims."

"What a consistent pig he is," cooed McTurk, when they were out of
earshot. "One always knows where to have him. Did you see how he rose
to that draw about the Head and special privileges?"

"Confound him, he might have had the decency to have backed the
scheme. I could do such a lovely ballad, rottin' it; and now I'll
have to be a giddy enthusiast. It don't bar our pulling Stalky's leg
in the study, does it?"

"Oh, no; but in the Coll. we must be pro-cadet-corps like anything.
Can't you make up a giddy epigram, _a'_la_Catullus_, about King
objectin' to it?" Beetle was at this noble task when Stalky returned
all hot from his first drill.

"Hullo, my ramrod-bunger!" began McTurk. "Where's your dead dog? Is it
Defence or Defiance?"

"Defiance," said Stalky, and leaped on him at that word. "Look here,
Turkey, you mustn't rot the corps. We've arranged it beautifully.
Foxy swears he won't take us out into the open till we say we want to
go."

"_Dis_-gustin' exhibition of immature infants apin' the idiosyncrasies
of their elders. Snff!"

"Have you drawn King, Beetle?" Stalky asked in a pause of the
scuffle.

"Not exactly; but that's his genial style."

"Well, listen to your Uncle Stalky--who is a great man. Moreover and
subsequently, Foxy's goin' to let us drill the corps in
turn--_privatim_et_seriatim_--so that we'll all know how to handle a
half company anyhow. _Ergo_, an' _propter_hoc_, when we go to the
Shop we shall be dismissed drill early; thus, my beloved 'earers,
combinin' education with wholesome amusement."

"I knew you'd make a sort of extra-tu of it, you cold-blooded brute,"
said McTurk. "Don't you want to die for your giddy country?"

"Not if I can jolly well avoid it. So you mustn't rot the corps."

"We'd decided on that, years ago," said Beetle, scornfully. "King'll
do the rottin'."

"Then you've got to rot King, my giddy poet. Make up a good catchy
Limerick, and let the fags sing it."

"Look here, you stick to volunteerin', and don't jog the table."

"He won't have anything to take hold of," said Stalky, with dark
significance.

They did not know what that meant till, a few days later, they
proposed to watch the corps at drill. They found the gymnasium door
locked and a fag on guard. "This is sweet cheek," said McTurk,
stooping.

"Mustn't look through the key-hole," said the sentry.

"I like that. Why, Wake, you little beast, I made you a volunteer."

"Can't help it. My orders are not to allow any one to look."

"S'pose we do?" said McTurk. "S'pose we jolly well slay you?"

"My orders are, I am to give the name of anybody who interfered with
me on my post, to the corps, an' they'd deal with him after drill,
accordin' to martial law."

"What a brute Stalky is!" said Beetle. They never doubted for a moment
who had devised that scheme.

"You esteem yourself a giddy centurion, don't you?" said Beetle,
listening to the crash and rattle of grounded arms within.

"My ordcrs are, not to talk except to explain my orders--they'll lick
me if I do."

McTurk looked at Beetle. The two shook their heads and turned away.

"I swear Stalky _is_ a great man," said Beetle after a long pause.
"One consolation is that this sort of secret-society biznai will
drive King wild."

It troubled many more than King, but the members of the corps were
muter than oysters. Foxy, being bound by no vow, carried his woes to
Keyte.

"I never come across such nonsense in my life. They've tiled the
lodge, inner and outer guard, all complete, and then they get to
work, keen as mustard."

"But what's it all for?" asked the ex-Troop Sergeant-Major.

"To learn their drill. You never saw anything like it. They begin
after I've dismissed 'em--practisin' tricks; but out into the open
they will _not_ come--not for ever so. The 'ole thing is
pre-posterous. If you're a cadet-corps, _I_ say, be a cadet-corps,
instead o' hidin' be'ind locked doors."

"And what do the authorities say about it?"

"That beats me again." The Sergeant spoke fretfully. "I go to the 'Ead
an' 'e gives me no help. There's times when I think he's makin' fun
o' me. I've never been a Volunteer-sergeant, thank God--but I've
always had the consideration to pity 'em. I'm glad o' that."

"I'd like to see 'em," said Keyte. "From your statements, Sergeant, I
can't get at what they're after."

"Don't ask me, Major! Ask that freckle-faced young Corkran. He's
their generalissimo."

One does not refuse a warrior of Sobraon, or deny the only pastry-cook
within bounds. So Keyte came, by invitation, leaning upon a stick,
tremulous with old age, to sit in a corner and watch.

"They shape well. They shape uncommon well," he whispered between
evolutions.

"Oh, this isn't what they're after. Wait till I dismiss 'em."

At the "break-off" the ranks stood fast. Perowne fell out, faced them,
and, refreshing his memory by glimpses at a red-bound, metal-clasped
book, drilled them for ten minutes. (This is that Perowne who was
shot in Equatorial Africa by his own men.) Ansell followed him, and
Hogan followed Ansell. All three were implicitly obeyed. Then Stalky
laid aside his Snider, and, drawing a long breath, favored the
company with a blast of withering invective.

"'Old 'ard, Muster Corkran. That ain't in any drill," cried Foxy.

"All right, Sergeant. You never know what you may have to say to your
men.--For pity's sake, try to stand up without leanin' against each
other, you blear-eyed, herrin'-gutted gutter-snipes. It's no pleasure
to me to comb you out. That ought to have been done before you came
here, you--you militia broom-stealers."

"The old touch--the old touch. _We_ know it," said Keyte, wiping his
rheumy eyes. "But where did he pick it up?"

"From his father--or his uncle. Don't ask me! Half of 'em must have
been born within earshot o' the barracks." (Foxy was not far wrong in
his guess.) "I've heard more back-talk since this volunteerin'
nonsense began than I've heard in a year in the service."

"There's a rear-rank man lookin' as though his belly were in the
pawn-shop. Yes, you, Private Ansell," and Stalky tongue-lashed the
victim for three minutes, in gross and in detail.

"Hullo!" He returned to his normal tone. "First blood to me. You
flushed, Ansell. You wriggled."

"Couldn't help flushing," was the answer. "Don't think I wriggled,
though."

"Well, it's your turn now." Stalky resumed his place in the ranks.

"Lord, Lord! It's as good as a play," chuckled the attentive Keyte.
Ansell, too, had been blessed with relatives in the service, and
slowly, in a lazy drawl--his style was more reflective than
Stalky's--descended the abysmal depths of personality.

"Blood to me!" he shouted triumphantly. "You couldn't stand it,
either." Stalky was a rich red, and his Snider shook visibly.

"I didn't think I would," he said, struggling for composure, "but
after a bit I got in no end of a bait. Curious, ain't it?"

"Good for the temper," said the slow-moving Hogan, as they returned
arms to the rack.

"Did you ever?" said Foxy, hopelessly, to Keyte.

"I don't know much about volunteers, but it's the rummiest show I ever
saw. I can see what they're gettin' at, though. Lord! how often I've
been told off an' dressed down in my day! They shape well--extremely
well they shape."

"If I could get 'em out into the open, there's nothing I couldn't do
with 'em, Major. Perhaps when the uniforms come down, they'll change
their mind."

Indeed it was time that the corps made some concession to the
curiosity of the school. Thrice had the guard been maltreated and
thrice had the corps dealt out martial law to the offender. The
school raged. What was the use, they asked, of a cadet-corps which
none might see? Mr. King congratulated them on their invisible
defenders, and they could not parry his thrusts. Foxy was growing
sullen and restive. A few of the corps expressed openly doubts as to
the wisdom of their course; and the question of uniforms loomed on
the near horizon. If these were issued, they would be forced to wear
them.

But, as so often happens in this life, the matter was suddenly settled
from without.

The Head had duly informed the Council that their recommendation had
been acted upon, and that, so far as he could learn, the buys were
drilling. He said nothing of the terms on which they drilled.
Naturally, General Collinson was delighted and told his friends. One
of his friends rejoiced in a friend, a Member of Parliament--a
zealous, an intelligent, and, above all, a patriotic person, anxious
to do the most good in the shortest possible time. But we cannot
answer, alas! for the friends of our friends. If Collinson's friend
had introduced him to the General, the latter would have taken his
measure and saved much. But the friend merely spoke of his friend;
and since no two people in the world see eye to eye, the picture
conveyed to Collinson was inaccurate. Moreover, the man was an M.P.,
an impeccable Conservative, and the General had the English soldier's
lurking respect for any member of the Court of Last Appeal. He was
going down into the West country, to spread light in somebody's
benighted constituency. Wouldn't it be a good idea if, armed with the
General's recommendation, he, taking the admirable and newly
established cadet-corps for his text, spoke a few words--"Just talked
to the boys a little--eh? You know the kind of thing that would be
acceptable; and he'd be the very man to do it. The sort of talk that
boys understand, you know."

"They didn't talk to 'em much in my time," said the General,
suspiciously.

"Ah! but times change--with the spread of education and so on. The
boys of to-day are the men of to-morrow. An impression in youth is
likely to be permanent. And in these times, you know, with the
country going to the dogs?"

"You're quite right." The island was then entering on five years of
Mr. Gladstone's rule; and the General did not like what he had seen
of it. He would certainly write to the Head, for it was beyond
question that the boys of to-day made the men of to-morrow. That, if
he might say so, was uncommonly well put.

In reply, the Head stated that he should be delighted to welcome Mr.
Raymond Martin, M.P., of whom he had heard so much; to put him up for
the night, and to allow him to address the school on any subject that
he conceived would interest them. If Mr. Martin had not yet faced an
audience of this particular class of British youth, the Head had no
doubt that he would find it an interesting experience.

"And I don't think I am very far wrong in that last," he confided to
the Reverend John. "Do you happen to know anything of one Raymond
Martin?"

"I was at College with a man of that name," the chaplain replied. "He
was without form and void, so far as I remember, but desperately
earnest."

"He will address the Coll. on 'Patriotism' next Saturday."

"If there is one thing our boys detest more than another it is having
their Saturday evenings broken into. Patriotism has no chance beside
'brewing.'"

"Nor art either. D'you remember our 'Evening with Shakespeare'?" The
Head's eyes twinkled. "Or the humorous gentleman with the magic
lantern?"

"An' who the dooce is this Raymond Martin, M.P.?" demanded Beetle,
when he read the notice of the lecture in the corridor. "Why do the
brutes always turn up on a Saturday?"

"Ouh! Reomeo, Reomeo. Wherefore art thou Reomeo?" said McTurk over his
shoulder, quoting the Shakespeare artiste of last term. "Well, he
won't be as bad as _her_, I hope. Stalky, are you properly patriotic?
Because if you ain't, this chap's goin' to make you."

"Hope he won't take up the whole of the evening. I suppose we've got
to listen to him."

"Wouldn't miss him for the world," said McTurk. "A lot of chaps
thought that Romeo-Romeo woman was a bore. _I_ didn't. I liked her!
'Member when she began to hiccough in the middle of it? P'raps he'll
hiccough. Whoever gets into the Gym first, bags seats for the other
two."

There was no nervousness, but a brisk and cheery affability about Mr.
Raymond Martin, M.P., as he drove up, watched by many eyes, to the
Head's house.

"Looks a bit of a bargee," was McTurk's comment. "Shouldn't be
surprised if he was a Radical. He rowed the driver about the fare. I
heard him."

"That was his giddy patriotism," Beetle explained. After tea they
joined the rush for seats, secured a private and invisible corner,
and began to criticise. Every gas-jet was lit. On the little dais at
the far end stood the Head's official desk, whence Mr. Martin would
discourse, and a ring of chairs for the masters.

Entered then Foxy, with official port, and leaned something like a
cloth rolled round a stick against the desk. No one in authority was
yet present, so the school applauded, crying: "What's that, Foxy?
What are you stealin' the gentleman's brolly for?--We don't birch
here. We cane! Take away that bauble!--Number off from the right"
--and so forth, till the entry of the Head and the masters ended all
demonstrations.

"One good job--the Common-room hate this as much as we do. Watch King
wrigglin' to get out of the draft."

"Where's the Raymondiferous Martin? Punctuality, my beloved 'earers,
is the image o' war--"

"Shut up. Here's the giddy Dook. Golly, what a dewlap!" Mr. Martin, in
evening dress, was undeniably throaty--a tall, generously designed,
pink-and-white man. Still, Beetle need not have been coarse.

"Look at his back while he's talkin' to the Head. Vile bad form to
turn your back on the audience! He's a Philistine--a Bopper--a
Jebusite--an' a Hivite." McTurk leaned back and sniffed
contemptuously.

In a few colorless words, the Head introduced the speaker and sat down
amid applause. When Mr. Martin took the applause to himself, they
naturally applauded more than ever. It was some time before be could
begin. He had no knowledge of the school--its tradition or heritage.
He did not know that the last census showed that eighty per cent. of
the boys had been born abroad--in camp, cantonment, or upon the high
seas; or that seventy-five per cent. were sons of officers in one or
other of the services--Willoughbys, Paulets, De Castros, Maynes,
Randalls, after their kind--looking to follow their fathers'
profession. The Head might have told him this, and much more; but,
after an hour-long dinner in his company, the Head decided to say
nothing whatever. Mr. Raymond Martin seemed to know so much already.

He plunged into his speech with a long-drawn, rasping "Well, boys,"
that, though they were not conscious of it, set every young nerve
ajar. He supposed they knew--hey?--what he had come down for? It was
not often that he had an opportunity to talk to boys. He supposed
that boys were very much the same kind of persons--some people
thought them rather funny persons--as they had been in his youth.

"This man," said McTurk, with conviction, "is _the_ Gadarene Swine."

But they must remember that they would not always be boys. They would
grow up into men, because the boys of to-day made the men of
to-morrow, and upon the men of to-morrow the fair fame of their
glorious native land depended.

"If this goes on, my beloved 'earers, it will be my painful duty to
rot this bargee." Stalky drew a long breath through his nose.

"Can't do that," said McTurk. "He ain't chargin' anything for his
Romeo."

And so they ought to think of the duties and responsibilities of the
life that was opening before them. Life was not all--he enumerated a
few games, and, that nothing might be lacking to the sweep and impact
of his fall, added "marbles." "Yes, life was not," he said, "all
marbles."

There was one tense gasp--among the juniors almost a shriek--of
quivering horror, he was a heathen--an outcast---beyond the extremest
pale of toleration--self-damned before all men. Stalky bowed his head
in his hands. McTurk, with a bright and cheerful eye, drank in every
word, and Beetle nodded solemn approval.

Some of them, doubtless, expected in a few years to have the honor of
a commission from the Queen, and to wear a sword. Now, he himself had
had some experience of these duties, as a Major in a volunteer
regiment, and he was glad to learn that they had established a
volunteer corps in their midst. The establishment of such an
establishment conduced to a proper and healthy spirit, which, if
fostered, would be of great benefit to the land they loved and were
so proud to belong to. Some of those now present expected, he had no
doubt--some of them anxiously looked forward to leading their men
against the bullets of England's foes; to confronting the stricken
field in all the pride of their youthful manhood.

Now the reserve of a boy is tenfold deeper than the reserve of a maid,
she being made for one end only by blind Nature, but man for several.
With a large and healthy hand, he tore down these veils, and trampled
them under the well-intentioned feet of eloquence. In a raucous
voice, he cried aloud little matters, like the hope of Honor and the
dream of Glory, that boys do not discuss even with their most
intimate equals, cheerfully assuming that, till he spoke, they had
never considered these possibilities. He pointed them to shining
goals, with fingers which smudged out all radiance on all horizons.
He profaned the most secret places of their souls with outcries and
gesticulations, he bade them consider the deeds of their ancestors in
such a fashion that they were flushed to their tingling ears. Some of
them--the rending voice cut a frozen stillness--might have had
relatives who perished in defence of their country. They thought, not
a few of them, of an old sword in a passage, or above a
breakfast-room table, seen and fingered by stealth since they could
walk. He adjured them to emulate those illustrious examples; and they
looked all ways in their extreme discomfort.

Their years forbade them even to shape their thoughts clearly to
themselves. They felt savagely that they were being outraged by a fat
man who considered marbles a game.

And so he worked towards his peroration--which, by the way, he used
later with overwhelming success at a meeting of electors--while they
sat, flushed and uneasy, in sour disgust. After many, many words, he
reached for the cloth-wrapped stick and thrust one hand in his bosom.
This--this was the concrete symbol of their land--worthy of all honor
and reverence! Let no boy look on this flag who did not purpose to
worthily add to its imperishable lustre. He shook it before them--a
large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colors, and waited for
the thunder of applause that should crown his effort.

They looked in silence. They had certainly seen the thing before--down
at the coastguard station, or through a telescope, half-mast high
when a brig went ashore on Braunton Sands; above the roof of the
Golf-club, and in Keyte's window, where a certain kind of striped
sweetmeat bore it in paper on each box. But the College never
displayed it; it was no part of the scheme of their lives; the Head
had never alluded to it; their fathers had not declared it unto them.
It was a matter shut up, sacred and apart. What, in the name of
everything caddish, was he driving at, who waved that horror before
their eyes? Happy thought! Perhaps he was drunk.

The Head saved the situation by rising swiftly to propose a vote of
thanks, and at his first motion, the school clapped furiously, from a
sense of relief.

"And I am sure," he concluded, the gaslight full on his face, "that
you will all join me in a very hearty vote of thanks to Mr. Raymond
Martin for the most enjoyable address he has given us."

To this day we shall never know the rights of the case. The Head vows
that he did no such thing; or that, if he did, it must have been
something in his eye; but those who were present are persuaded that
he winked, once, openly and solemnly, after the word "enjoyable." Mr.
Raymond Martin got his applause full tale. As he said, "Without
vanity, I think my few words went to their hearts. I never knew boys
could cheer like that."

He left as the prayer-bell rang, and the boys lined up against the
wall. The flag lay still unrolled on the desk, Foxy regarding it with
pride, for he had been touched to the quick by Mr. Martin's
eloquence. The Head and the Common-room, standing back on the dais,
could not see the glaring offence, but a prefect left the line,
rolled it up swiftly, and as swiftly tossed it into a glove and foil
locker.

Then, as though he had touched a spring, broke out the low murmur of
content, changing to quick-volleyed hand-clapping.

They discussed the speech in the dormitories. There was not one
dissentient voice. Mr. Raymond Martin, beyond question, was born in
a gutter, and bred in a board-school, where they played marbles. He
was further (I give the barest handful from great store) a Flopshus
Cad, an Outrageous Stinker, a Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper (this was
Stalky's contribution), and several other things which it is not
seemly to put down.

The volunteer cadet-corps fell in next Monday, depressedly, with a
face of shame. Even then, judicious silence might have turned the
corner.

Said Foxy: "After a fine speech like what you 'eard night before last,
you ought to take 'old of your drill with _re_-newed activity. I
don't see how you can avoid comin' out an' marchin' in the open now."

"Can't we get out of it, then, Foxy?" Stalky's fine old silky tone
should have warned him.

"No, not with his giving the flag so generously. He told me before he
left this morning that there was no objection to the corps usin' it
as their own. It's a handsome flag."

Stalky returned his rifle to the rack in dead silence, and fell out.
His example was followed by Hogan and Ansell. Perowne hesitated.
"Look here, oughtn't we--?" he began.

"I'll get it out of the locker in a minute," said the Sergeant, his
back turned. "Then we can--"

"Come on!" shouted Stalky. "What the devil are you waiting for?
Dismiss! Break off."

"Why--what the--where the--?"

The rattle of Sniders, slammed into the rack, drowned his voice, as
boy after boy fell out.

"I--I don't know that I shan't have to report this to the Head," he
stammered.

"Report, then, and be damned to you," cried Stalky, white to the lips,
and ran out.

"Rummy thing!" said Beetle to McTurk. "I was in the study, doin' a
simply lovely poem about the Jelly-Bellied Flag-Flapper, an' Stalky
came in, an' I said 'Hullo!' an' he cursed me like a bargee, and then
he began to blub like anything. Shoved his head on the table and
howled. Hadn't we better do something?"

McTurk was troubled. "P'raps he's smashed himself up somehow."

They found him, with very bright eyes, whistling between his teeth.

"Did I take you in, Beetle? I thought I would. Wasn't it a good draw?
Didn't you think I was blubbin'? Didn't I do it well? Oh, you fat old
ass!" And he began to pull Beetle's ears and checks, in the fashion
that was called "milking."

"I knew you were blubbin'," Beetle replied, composedly. "Why aren't
you at drill?"

"Drill! What drill?"

"Don't try to be a clever fool. Drill in the Gym."

"'Cause there isn't any. The volunteer cadet-corps is broke
up--disbanded--dead--putrid--corrupt---stinkin'. An' if you look at
me like that, Beetle, I'll slay you too... Oh, yes, an' I'm goin' to
be reported to the Head for swearin'."

THE LAST TERM.

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.

Thanks in large part to their house-master's experienced distrust, the
three for three consecutive terms had been passed over for promotion
to the rank of prefect--an office that went by merit, and carried
with it the honor of the ground-ash, and liberty, under restrictions,
to use it.

"_But_," said Stalky, "come to think of it, we've done more giddy
jesting with the Sixth since we've been passed over than any one else
in the last seven years."

He touched his neck proudly. It was encircled by the stiffest of
stick-up collars, which custom decreed could be worn only by the
Sixth. And the Sixth saw those collars and said no word. "Pussy,"
Abanazar, or Dick Four of a year ago would have seen them discarded
in five minutes or... But the Sixth of that term was made up mostly
of young but brilliantly clever boys, pets of the house-masters, too
anxious for their dignity to care to come to open odds with the
resourceful three. So they crammed their caps at the extreme back of
their heads, instead of a trifle over one eye as the Fifth should,
and rejoiced in patent-leather boots on week-days, and marvellous
made-up ties on Sundays--no man rebuking. McTurk was going up for
Cooper's Hill, and Stalky for Sandhurst, in the spring; and the Head
had told them both that, unless they absolutely collapsed during the
holidays, they were safe. As a trainer of colts, the Head seldom
erred in an estimate of form.

He had taken Beetle aside that day and given him much good advice, not
one word of which did Beetle remember when he dashed up to the study,
white with excitement, and poured out the wondrous tale. It demanded
a great belief.

"You begin on a hundred a year?" said McTurk unsympathetically.
"Rot!"

"And my passage out! It's all settled. The Head says he's been
breaking me in for this for ever so long, and I never knew--I never
knew. One don't begin with writing straight off, y'know. Begin by
filling in telegrams and cutting things out o' papers with scissors."

"Oh, Scissors! What an ungodly mess you'll make of it," said Stalky.
"But, anyhow, this will be your last term, too. Seven years, my
dearly beloved 'earers--though not prefects."

"Not half bad years, either," said McTurk. "I shall be sorry to leave
the old Coll.; shan't you?"

They looked out over the sea creaming along the Pebbleridge in the
clear winter light. "Wonder where we shall all be this time next
year?" said Stalky absently.

"This time five years," said McTurk.

"Oh," said Beetle, "my leavin's between ourselves. The Head hasn't
told any one. I know he hasn't, because Prout grunted at me to-day
that if I were more reasonable--yah!--I might be a prefect next
term. I s'ppose he's hard up for his prefects."

"Let's finish up with a row with the Sixth," suggested McTurk.

"Dirty little schoolboys!" said Stalky, who already saw himself a
Sandhurst cadet. "What's the use?"

"Moral effect," quoth McTurk. "Leave an imperishable tradition, and
all the rest of it."

"Better go into Bideford an' pay up our debts," said Stalky. "I've got
three quid out of my father--_ad_hoc_. Don't owe more than thirty
bob, either. Cut along, Beetle, and ask the Head for leave. Say you
want to correct the 'Swillingford Patriot.'"

"Well, I do," said Beetle. "It'll be my last issue, and I'd like it to
look decent. I'll catch him before he goes to his lunch."

Ten minutes later they wheeled out in line, by grace released from
five o'clock call-over, and all the afternoon lay before them. So
also unluckily did King, who never passed without witticisms. But
brigades of Kings could not have ruffled Beetle that day.

"Aha! Enjoying the study of light literature, my friends," said he,
rubbing his hands. "Common mathematics are not for such soaring minds
as yours, are they?"

("One hundred a year," thought Beetle, smiling into vacancy.)

"Our open incompetence takes refuge in the flowery paths of inaccurate
fiction. But a day of reckoning approaches, Beetle mine. I myself
have prepared a few trifling foolish questions in Latin prose which
can hardly be evaded even by your practised acts of deception. Ye-es,
Latin prose. I think, if I may say so--but we shall see when the
papers are set--'Ulpian serves your need.' Aha! '_Elucescebat_, quoth
our friend.' We shall see! We shall see!"

Still no sign from Beetle. He was on a steamer, his passage paid into
the wide and wonderful world--a thousand leagues beyond Lundy Island.

King dropped him with a snarl.

"He doesn't know. He'll go on correctin' exercises an' jawin' an'
showin' off before the little boys next term--and next." Beetle
hurried after his companions up the steep path of the furze-clad hill
behind the College.

They were throwing pebbles on the top of the gasometer, and the grimy
gas-man in change bade them desist. They watched him oil a turncock
sunk in the ground between two furze-bushes.

"Cokey, what's that for?" said Stalky.

"To turn the gas on to the kitchens," said Cokey. "If so be I didn't
turn her on, yeou young gen'lemen 'ud be larnin' your book by
candlelight."

"Um!" said Stalky, and was silent for at least a minute.

"Hullo! Where are you chaps going?" A bend of the lane brought them
face to face with Tulke, senior prefect of King's house--a smallish,
white-haired boy, of the type that must be promoted on account of its
intellect, and ever afterwards appeals to the Head to support its
authority when zeal has outrun discretion.

The three took no sort of notice. They were on lawful pass. Tulke
repeated his question hotly, for he had suffered many slights from
Number Five study, and fancied that he had at last caught them
tripping.

"What the devil is that to you?" Stalky replied with his sweetest
smile.

"Look here, I'm not goin'--I'm not goin' to be sworn at by the Fifth!"
sputtered Tulke.

"Then cut along and call a prefects' meeting," said McTurk, knowing
Tulke's weakness.

The prefect became inarticulate with rage.

"Mustn't yell at the Fifth that way," said Stalky. "It's vile bad
form."

"Cough it up, ducky!" McTurk said calmly.

"I--I want to know what you chaps are doing out of bounds?" This with
an important flourish of his ground-ash.

"Ah," said Stalky. "Now we're gettin' at it. Why didn't you ask that
before?"

"Well, I ask it now. What are you doing?"

"We're admiring you, Tulke," said Stalky. "We think you're no end of a
fine chap, don't we?"

"We do! We do!" A dog-cart with some girls in it swept round the
corner, and Stalky promptly kneeled before Tulke in the attitude of
prayer; so Tulke turned a color.

"I've reason to believe--" he began.

"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" shouted Beetle, after the manner of Bideford's
town crier, "Tulke has reason to believe! Three cheers for Tulke!"

They were given. "It's all our giddy admiration," said Stalky. "You
know how we love you, Tulke. We love you so much we think you ought
to go home and die. You're too good to live, Tulke."

"Yes," said McTurk. "Do oblige us by dyin'. Think how lovely you'd
look stuffed!"

Tulke swept up the road with an unpleasant glare in his eye.

"That means a prefects' meeting--sure pop," said Stalky. "Honor of the
Sixth involved, and all the rest of it. Tulke'll write notes all this
afternoon, and Carson will call us up after tea. They daren't
overlook that."

"Bet you a bob he follows us!" said McTurk. "He's King's pet, and it's
scalps to both of 'em if we're caught out. We must be virtuous."

"Then I move we go to Mother Yeo's for a last gorge. We owe her about
ten bob, and Mary'll weep sore when she knows we're leaving," said
Beetle.

"She gave me an awful wipe on the head last time--Mary," said Stalky.

"She does if you don't duck," said McTurk. "But she generally kisses
one back. Let's try Mother Yeo."

They sought a little bottle-windowed half dairy, half restaurant, a
dark-brewed, two-hundred-year-old house, at the head of a narrow side
street. They had patronized it from the days of their fagdom, and
were very much friends at home.

"We've come to pay our debts, mother," said Stalky, sliding his arm
round the fifty-six-inch waist of the mistress of the establishment.
"To pay our debts and say good-by--and--and we're awf'ly hungry."

"Aie!" said Mother Yeo, "makkin' love to me! I'm shaamed of 'ee."

"'Rackon us wouldn't du no such thing if Mary was here," said McTurk,
lapsing into the broad North Devon that the boys used on their
campaigns.

"Who'm takin' my name in vain?" The inner door opened, and Mary,
fair-haired, blue-eyed, and apple-checked, entered with a bowl of
cream in her bands. McTurk kissed her. Beetle followed suit, with
exemplary calm. Both boys were promptly cuffed.

"Niver kiss the maid when 'e can kiss the mistress," said Stalky,
shamelessly winking at Mother Yeo, as he investigated a shelf of
jams.

"Glad to see one of 'ee don't want his head slapped no more?" said
Mary invitingly, in that direction.

"Neu! Reckon I can get 'em give me," said Stalky, his back turned.

"Not by me--yeou little masterpiece!"

"Niver asked 'ee. There's maids to Northam. Yiss--an' Appledore." An
unreproducible sniff, half contempt, half reminiscence, rounded the
retort.

"Aie! Yeou won't niver come to no good end. Whutt be 'baout, smellin'
the cream?"

"'Tees bad," said Stalky. "Zmell 'un."

Incautiously Mary did as she was bid.

"Bidevoor kiss."

"Niver amiss," said Stalky, taking it without injury.

"Yeou--yeou--yeou--" Mary began, bubbling with mirth.

"They'm better to Northam--more rich, laike an' us gets them give back
again," he said, while McTurk solemnly waltzed Mother Yeo out of
breath, and Beetle told Mary the sad news, as they sat down to
clotted cream, jam, and hot bread.

"Yiss. Yeou'll niver zee us no more, Mary. We're goin' to be passons
an' missioners."

"Steady the Buffs! "said McTurk, looking through the blind. "Tulke has
followed us. He's comin' up the street now."

"They've niver put us out o' bounds," said Mother Yeo. "Bide yeou
still, my little dearrs." She rolled into the inner room to make the
score.

"Mary," said Stalky, suddenly, with tragic intensity. "Do 'ee lov' me,
Mary?"

"Iss--fai! Talled 'ee zo since yeou was zo high!" the damsel replied.

"Zee 'un comin' up street, then?" Stalky pointed to the unconscious
Tulke. "He've niver been kissed by no sort or manner o' maid in hees
borned laife, Mary. Oh, 'tees shaamful!"

"Whutt's to do with me? 'Twill come to 'un in the way o' nature, I
rackon." She nodded her head sagaciously. "You niver want me to kiss
un--sure-_ly_?"

"Give 'ee half-a-crown if 'ee will," said Stalky, exhibiting the
coin.

Half-a-crown was much to Mary Yeo, and a jest was more; but

Yeu'm afraid," said McTurk, at the psychological moment.

"Aie!" Beetle echoed, knowing her weak point. "There's not a maid to
Northam 'ud think twice. An' yeou such a fine maid, tu!"

McTurk planted one foot firmly against the inner door lest Mother Yeo
should return inopportunely, for Mary's face was set. It was then
that Tulke found his way blocked by a tall daughter of Devon--that
county of easy kisses, the pleasantest under the sun. He dodged aside
politely. She reflected a moment, and laid a vast hand upon his
shoulder.

"Where be 'ee gwaine tu, my dearr?" said she.

Over the handkerchief he had crammed into his mouth Stalky could see
the boy turn scarlet.

"Gie I a kiss! Don't they larn 'ee manners to College?"

Tulke gasped and wheeled. Solemnly and conscientiously Mary kissed him
twice, and the luckless prefect fled.

She stepped into the shop, her eyes full of simple wonder. "Kissed
'un?" said Stalky, handing over the money.

"Iss, fai! But, oh, my little body, he'm no Colleger. 'Zeemed
tu-minded to cry, like."

"Well, we won't. Yell couldn't make us cry that way," said McTurk.
"Try."

Whereupon Mary cuffed them all round.

As they went out with tingling cars, said Stalky generally, "Don't
think there'll be much of a prefects' meeting."

"Won't there, just!" said Beetle. "Look here. If he kissed her--which
is our tack--he is a cynically immoral hog, and his conduct is
blatant indecency. _Confer_orationes_Regis_furiosissimi_, when he
collared me readin' "Don Juan.'"

"'Course he kissed her," said McTurk. "In the middle of the street.
With his house-cap on!"

"Time, 3.57 p.m. Make a note o' that. What d'you mean, Beetle?" said
Stalky.

"Well! He's a truthful little beast. He may say he was kissed."

"And then?"

"Why, then!" Beetle capered at the mere thought of it. "Don't you see?
The corollary to the giddy proposition is that the Sixth can't
protect 'emselves from outrages an' ravishin's. Want nursemaids to
look after 'em! We've only got to whisper that to the Coll. Jam for
the Sixth! Jam for us! Either way it's jammy!"

"By Gum!" said Stalky. "Our last term's endin' well. Now you cut along
an' finish up your old rag, and Turkey and me will help. We'll go in
the back way. No need to bother Randall."

"Don't play the giddy garden-goat, then?" Beetle knew what help meant,
though he was by no means averse to showing his importance before his
allies. The little loft behind Randall's printing office was his own
territory, where he saw himself already controlling the "Times."
Here, under the guidance of the inky apprentice, he had learned to
find his way more or less circuitously about the case, and considered
himself an expert compositor.

The school paper in its locked formes lay on a stone-topped table, a
proof by the side; but not for worlds would Beetle have corrected
from the mere proof. With a mallet and a pair of tweezers, he knocked
out mysterious wedges of wood that released the forme, picked a
letter here and inserted a letter there, reading as he went along and
stopping much to chuckle over his own contributions.

"You won't show off like that," said McTurk, "when you've got to do it
for your living. Upside down and backwards, isn't it? Let's see if I
can read it."

"Get out!" said Beetle. "Go and read those formes in the rack there,
if you think you know so much."

"Formes in a rack! What's that? Don't be so beastly professional."

McTurk drew off with Stalky to prowl about the office. They left
little unturned.

"Come here a shake, Beetle. What's this thing?" aid Stalky, in a few
minutes. "Looks familiar."

Said Beetle, after a glance: "It's King's Latin prose exam. paper.
_In_--_In_Varrem: _actio_prima_. What a lark!"

"Think o' the pure-souled, high-minded boys who'd give their eyes for
a squint at it!" said McTurk.

"No, Willie dear," said Stalky; "that would be wrong and painful to
our kind teachers. You wouldn't crib, Willie, would you?"

"Can't read the beastly stuff, anyhow," was the reply. "Besides, we're
leavin' at the end o' the term, so it makes no difference to us."

"'Member what the Considerate Bloomer did to Spraggon's account of the
Puffin'ton Hounds? We must sugar Mr. King's milk for him," said
Stalky, all lighted from within by a devilish joy. "Let's see what
Beetle can do with those forceps he's so proud of."

"Don't see now you can make Latin prose much more cock-eye than it is,
but we'll try," said Beetle, transposing an _aliud_ and _Asiae_ from
two sentences. "Let's see! We'll put that full-stop a little further
on, and begin the sentence with the next capital. Hurrah! Here's
three lines that can move up all in a lump."

"'One of those scientific rests for which this eminent huntsman is so
justly celebrated.'" Stalky knew the Puffington run by heart.

"Hold on! Here's a _vol_--_voluntate_quidnam_ all by itself," said
McTurk.

"I'll attend to her in a shake. _Quidnam_ goes after _Dolabella_."

"Good old Dolabella," murmured Stalky. "Don't break him. Vile prose
Cicero wrote, didn't he? He ought to be grateful for--"

"Hullo!" said McTurk, over another forme. "What price a giddy ode?
_Qui_--_quis_ --oh, it's _Quis_multa_gracilis_, o' course."

"Bring it along. We've sugared the milk here," said Stalky, after a
few minutes' zealous toil. "Never thrash your hounds unnecessarily."

"_Quis_munditiis_? I swear that's not bad," began Beetle, plying the
tweezers. "Don't that interrogation look pretty?
_Heu_quoties_fidem_! That sounds as if the chap were anxious an'
excited. _Cui_flavam_religas_in_rosa_--Whose flavor is relegated to a
rose. _Mutatosque_Deos_flebit_in_antro."

"Mute gods weepin' in a cave," suggested Stalky. "'Pon my Sam, Horace
needs as much lookin' after as--Tulke."

They edited him faithfully till it was too dark to see.

"'Aha! Elucescebat, quoth our friend.' Ulpian serves my need, does it?
If King can make anything out of _that_, I'm a blue-eyed squatteroo,"
said Beetle, as they slid out of the loft window into a back alley of
old acquaintance and started on a three-mile trot to the College. But
the revision of the classics had detained them too long. They halted,
blown and breathless, in the furze at the back of the gasometer, the
College lights twinkling below, ten minutes at least late for tea and
lock-up.

"It's no good," puffed McTurk. "Bet a bob Foxy is waiting for
defaulters under the lamp by the Fives Court. It's a nuisance, too,
because the Head gave us long leave, and one doesn't like to break
it."

"'Let me now from the bonded ware'ouse of my knowledge,'" began
Stalky.

"Oh, rot! Don't Jorrock. Can we make a run for it?" snapped McTurk.

"'Bishops' boots Mr. Radcliffe also condemned, an' spoke 'ighly in
favor of tops cleaned with champagne an' abricot jam.' Where's that
thing Cokey was twiddlin' this afternoon?"

They heard him groping in the wet, and presently beheld a great
miracle. The lights of the Coastguard cottages near the sea went out;
the brilliantly illuminated windows of the Golf-club disappeared, and
were followed by the frontages of the two hotels. Scattered villas
dulled, twinkled, and vanished. Last of all, the College lights died
also. They were left in the pitchy darkness of a windy winter's
night.

"'Blister my kidneys. It _is_ a frost. The dahlias are dead!'" said
Stalky. "Bunk!"

They squattered through the dripping gorse as the College hummed like
an angry hive and the dining-rooms chorused, "Gas! gas! gas!" till
they came to the edge of the sunk path that divided them from their
study. Dropping that ha-ha like bullets, and rebounding like boys,
they dashed to their study, in less than two minutes had changed into
dry trousers and coat, and, ostentatiously slippered, joined the mob
in the dining-hall, which resembled the storm-centre of a South
American revolution.

"'Hellish dark and smells of cheese.'" Stalky elbowed his way into the
press, howling lustily for gas. "Cokey must have gone for a walk.
Foxy'll have to find him."

Prout, as the nearest house-master, was trying to restore order, for
rude boys were flicking butter-pats across chaos, and McTurk had
turned on the fags' tea-urn, so that many were parboiled and wept
with an unfeigned dolor. The Fourth and Upper Third broke into the
school song, the "Vive la Compagnie," to the accompaniment of
drumming knife-handles; and the junior forms shrilled bat-like shrieks
and raided one another's victuals. Two hundred and fifty boys in high
condition, seeking for more light, are truly earnest inquirers.

When a most vile smell of gas told them that supplies had been
renewed, Stalky, waistcoat unbuttoned, sat gorgedly over what might
have been his fourth cup of tea. "And that's all right," he said.
"Hullo! 'Ere's Pomponius Ego!"

It was Carson, the head of the school, a simple, straight-minded soul,
and a pillar of the First Fifteen, who crossed over from the
prefects' table and in a husky, official voice invited the three to
attend in his study in half an hour. "Prefects' meetin'! Prefects'
meetin'!" hissed the tables, and they imitated barbarically the
actions and effects of the ground-ash.

"How are we goin' to jest with 'em?" said Stalky, turning half-face to
Beetle. "It's your play this time!"

"Look here," was the answer, "all I want you to do is not to laugh.
I'm goin' to take charge o' young Tulke's immorality--_a'_la_ King,
and it's goin' to be serious. If you can't help laughin' don't look
at me, or I'll go pop."

"I see. All right," said Stalky.

McTurk's lank frame stiffened in every muscle and his eyelids dropped
half over his eyes. That last was a war-signal.

The eight or nine seniors, their faces very set and sober, were ranged
in chairs round Carson's severely Philistine study. Tulke was not
popular among them, and a few who had had experience of Stalky and
Company doubted that he might, perhaps, have made an ass of himself.
But the dignity of the Sixth was to be upheld. So Carson began
hurriedly: "Look here, you chaps, I've--we've sent for you to tell
you you're a good deal too cheeky to the Sixth--have been for some
time--and--and we've stood about as much as we're goin' to, and it
seems you've been cursin' and swearin' at Tulke on the Bideford road
this afternoon, and we're goin' to show you you can't do it. That's
all."

"Well, that's awfully good of you," said Stalky, "but we happen to
have a few rights of our own, too. You can't, just because you happen
to be made prefects, haul up seniors and jaw 'em on spec., like a
house-master. We aren't fags, Carson. This kind of thing may do for
Davies Tertius, but it won't do for us."

"It's only old Prout's lunacy that we weren't prefects long ago. You
know that," said McTurk. "You haven't any tact."

"Hold on," said Beetle. "A prefects' meetin' has to be reported to the
Head. I want to know if the Head backs Tulke in this business?"

"Well--well, it isn't exactly a prefects' meeting," said Carson. "We
only called you in to warn you."

"But all the prefects are here," Beetle insisted. "Where's the
difference?"

"My Gum!" said Stalky. "Do you mean to say you've just called us in
for a jaw--after comin' to us before the whole school at tea an'
givin' 'em the impression it was a prefects' meeting? 'Pon my Sam,
Carson, you'll get into trouble, you will."

"Hole-an'-corner business--hole-an'-corner business," said McTurk,
wagging his head. "Beastly suspicious."

The Sixth looked at each other uneasily. Tulke had called three
prefects' meetings in two terms, till the Head had informed the Sixth
that they were expected to maintain discipline without the recurrent
menace of his authority. Now, it seemed that they had made a blunder
at the outset, but any right-minded boy would have sunk the legality
and been properly impressed by the Court. Beetle's protest was
distinct "cheek."

"Well, you chaps deserve a lickin'," cried one Naughten incautiously.
Then was Beetle filled with a noble inspiration.

"For interferin' with Tulke's amours, eh?" Tulke turned a rich sloe
color. "Oh, no, you don't! "Beetle went on. "You've had your innings.
We've been sent up for cursing and swearing at you, and we're goin'
to be let off with a warning! _Are_ we? Now then, you're going to
catch it."

"I--I--I" Tulke began. "Don't let that young devil start jawing."

"If you've anything to say you must say it decently,'' said Carson.

"Decently? I will. Now look here. When we went into Bideford we met
this ornament of the Sixth--is that decent enough?--hanging about on
the road with a nasty look in his eye. We didn't know _then_ why he
was so anxious to stop us, _but_ at five minutes to four, when we
were in Yeo's shop, we saw Tulke in broad daylight, with his
house-cap on, kissin' an' huggin' a woman on the pavement. Is that
decent enough for you?"

"I didn't--I wasn't."

"We saw you!" said Beetle. "And now--I'll be decent, Carson--you sneak
back with her kisses" (not for nothing had Beetle perused the later
poets) "hot on your lips and call prefects' meetings, which aren't
prefects' meetings, to uphold the honor of the Sixth." A new and
heaven-cleft path opened before him that instant. "And how do we
know," he shouted--"how do we know how many of the Sixth are mixed up
in this abominable affair?"

"Yes, that's what we want to know," said McTurk, with simple dignity.

"We meant to come to you about it quietly, Carson, but you would have
the meeting," said Stalky sympathetically.

The Sixth were too taken aback to reply. So, carefully modelling his
rhetoric on King, Beetle followed up the attack, surpassing and
surprising himself, "It--it isn't so much the cynical immorality of
the biznai, as the blatant indecency of it, that's so awful. As far
as we can see, it's impossible for us to go into Bideford without
runnin' up against some prefect's unwholesome amours. There's nothing
to snigger over, Naughten. I don't pretend to know much about these
things--but it seems to me a chap must be pretty far dead in sin"
(that was a quotation from the school chaplain) "when he takes to
embracing his paramours" (that was Hakluyt) "before all the city" (a
reminiscence of Milton). "He might at least have the decency--you're
authorities on decency, I believe--to wait till dark. But he didn't.
You didn't! Oh, Tulke. You--you incontinent little animal!"

"Here, shut up a minute. What's all this about, Tulke?" said Carson.

"I--look here. I'm awfully sorry. I never thought Beetle would take
this line."

"Because--you've--no decency--you--thought--I hadn't," cried Beetle
all in one breath.

"Tried to cover it all up with a conspiracy, did you?" said Stalky.

"Direct insult to all three of us," said McTurk. "A most filthy mind
you have, Tulke."

"I'll shove you fellows outside the door if you go on like this," said
Carson angrily.

"That proves it's a conspiracy," said Stalky, with the air of a virgin
martyr.

"I--I was goin' along the street--I swear I was," cried Tulke,
"and--and I'm awfully sorry about it--a woman came up and kissed me.
I swear I didn't kiss her."

There was a pause, filled by Stalky's long, liquid whistle of
contempt, amazement, and derision.

"On my honor," gulped the persecuted one. "Oh, do stop him jawing."

"Very good," McTurk interjected. "We are compelled, of course, to
accept your statement."

"Confound it!" roared Naughten. "You aren't head-prefect here,
McTurk."

"Oh, well," returned the Irishman, "you know Tulke better than we do.
I am only speaking for ourselves. _We_ accept Tulke's word. But all I
can say is that if I'd been collared in a similarly disgustin'
situation, and had offered the same explanation Tulke has, I--I
wonder what you'd have said. However, it seems on Tulke's word of
honor--"

"And Tulkus--beg pardon--_kiss_, of course---Tulkiss is an honorable
man," put in Stalky.

"--that the Sixth can't protect 'emselves from bein' kissed when they
go for a walk!" cried Beetle, taking up the running with a rush.
"Sweet business, isn't it? Cheerful thing to tell the fags, ain't
it? We aren't prefects, of course, but we aren't kissed very much.
Don't think that sort of thing ever enters our heads; does it,
Stalky?"

"Oh, no!" said Stalky, turning aside to hide his emotions. McTurk's
face merely expressed lofty contempt and a little weariness.

"Well, you seem to know a lot about it," interposed a prefect.

"Can't help it--when you chaps shove it under our noses." Beetle
dropped into a drawling parody of King's most biting colloquial
style--the gentle rain after the thunder-storm. "Well, it's all very
sufficiently vile and disgraceful, isn't it? I don't know who comes
out of it worst: Tulke, who happens to have been caught; or the other
fellows who haven't. And we--" here he wheeled fiercely on the other
two--"we've got to stand up and be jawed by them because we've
disturbed their intrigues."

"Hang it! I only wanted to give you a word of warning," said Carson,
thereby handing himself bound to the enemy.

"Warn? You?" This with the air of one who finds loathsome gifts in his
locker. "Carson, would you be good enough to tell us what
conceivable thing there is that you are entitled to warn us about
after this exposure? Warn? Oh, it's a little too much! Let's go
somewhere where it's clean."

The door banged behind their outraged innocence.

"Oh, Beetle! Beetle! Beetle! Golden Beetle!" sobbed Stalky, hurling
himself on Beetle's panting bosom as soon as they reached the study.
"However did you do it?"

"Dear-r man" said McTurk, embracing Beetle's head with both arms,
while he swayed it to and fro on the neck, in time to this ancient
burden--

"Pretty lips--sweeter than--cherry or plum.
Always look--jolly and--never look glum;
Seem to say--Come away. Kissy!--come, come!
Yummy-yum! Yummy-yum! Yummy-yum-yum!"

"Look out. You'll smash my gig-lamps," puffed Beetle, emerging.
"Wasn't it glorious? Didn't I 'Eric' 'em splendidly? Did you spot my
cribs from King? Oh, blow!" His countenance clouded. "There's one
adjective I didn't use--obscene. Don't know how I forgot that. It's
one of King's pet ones, too."

"Never mind. They'll be sendin' ambassadors round in half a shake to
beg us not to tell the school. It's a deuced serious business for
them," said McTurk. "Poor Sixth--poor old Sixth!"

"Immoral young rips," Stalky snorted. "What an example to pure-souled
boys like you and me!"

And the Sixth in Carson's study sat aghast, glowering at Tulke, who
was on the edge of tears. "Well," said the head-prefect acidly.
"You've made a pretty average ghastly mess of it, Tulke."

"Why--why didn't you lick that young devil Beetle before he began
jawing?" Tulke wailed.

"I knew there'd be a row," said a prefect of Prout's house. "But you
would insist on the meeting, Tulke."

"Yes, and a fat lot of good it's done us," said Naughten. "They come
in here and jaw our heads off when we ought to be jawin' them. Beetle
talks to us as if we were a lot of blackguards and--and all that. And
when they've hung us up to dry, they go out and slam the door like a
house-master. All your fault, Tulke."

"But I didn't kiss her."

"You ass! If you'd said you _had_ and stuck to it, it would have been
ten times better than what you did," Naughten retorted. "Now they'll
tell the whole school--and Beetle'll make up a lot of beastly rhymes
and nick-names."

"But, hang it, she kissed me!" Outside of his work, Tulke's mind moved
slowly.

"I'm not thinking of you. I'm thinking of us. I'll go up to their
study and see if I can make 'em keep quiet!"

"Tulke's awf'ly cut up about this business," Naughten began,
ingratiatingly, when he found Beetle.

"Who's kissed him this time?"

"--and I've come to ask you chaps, and especially you, Beetle, not to
let the thing be known all over the school. Of course, fellows as
senior as you are can easily see why."

"Um!" said Beetle, with the cold reluctance of one who foresees an
unpleasant public duty. "I suppose I must go and talk to the Sixth
again."

"Not the least need, my dear chap, I assure you," said Naughten
hastily. "I'll take any message you care to send."

But the chance of supplying the missing adjective was too tempting. So
Naughten returned to that still undissolved meeting, Beetle, white,
icy, and aloof, at his heels.

"There seems," he began, with laboriously crisp articulation, "there
seems to be a certain amount of uneasiness among you as to the steps
we may think fit to take in regard to this last revelation of
the--ah--obscene. If it is any consolation to you to know that we
have decided--for the honor of the school, you understand--to keep
our mouths shut as to these--ah--obscenities, you--ah--have it."

He wheeled, his head among the stars, and strode statelily back to his
study, where Stalky and McTurk lay side by side upon the table wiping
their tearful eyes--too weak to move.

The Latin prose paper was a success beyond their wildest dreams.
Stalky and McTurk were, of course, out of all examinations (they did
extra-tuition with the Head), but Beetle attended with zeal.

"This, I presume, is a par-ergon on your part," said King, as he dealt
out the papers. "One final exhibition ere you are translated to
loftier spheres?. A last attack on the classics? It seems to confound
you already."

Beetle studied the print with knit brows. "I can't make head or tail
of it," he murmured. "What does it mean?"

"No, no!" said King, with scholastic coquetry. "We depend upon you to
give us the meaning. This is an examination, Beetle mine, not a
guessing-competition. You will find your associates have no
difficulty in--"

Tulke left his place and laid the paper on the desk. King looked,
read, and turned a ghastly green.

"Stalky's missing a heap," thought Beetle. "Wonder hew King'll get out
of it!"

"There seems," King began with a gulp, "a certain modicum of truth in
our Beetle's remark. I am--er--inclined to believe that the worthy
Randall must have dropped this in ferule--if you know what that
means. Beetle, you purport to be an editor. Perhaps you can enlighten
the form as to formes."

"What, sir! Whose form! I don't see that there's any verb in this
sentence at all, an'--an'--the Ode is all different, somehow."

"I was about to say, before you volunteered your criticism, that an
accident must have befallen the paper in type, and that the printer
reset it by the light of nature. No--" he held the thing at arm's
length--"our Randall is not an authority on Cicero or Horace."

"Rather mean to shove it off on Randall," whispered Beetle to his
neighbor. "King must ha' been as screwed as an owl when he wrote it
out."

"But we can amend the error by dictating it."

"No, sir." The answer came pat from a dozen throats at once. "That
cuts the time for the exam. Only two hours allowed, sir. 'Tisn't
fair. It's a printed-paper exam. How're we goin' to be marked for
it! It's all Randall's fault. It isn't our fault, anyhow. An exam.'s
an exam.," etc., etc.

Naturally Mr. King considered this was an attempt to undermine his
authority, and, instead of beginning dictation at once, delivered a
lecture on the spirit in which examinations should be approached. As
the storm subsided, Beetle fanned it afresh.

"Eh? What? What was that you were saying to MacLagan?"

"I only said I thought the papers ought to have been looked at before
they were given out, sir."

"Hear, hear!" from a back bench. Mr. King wished to know whether
Beetle took it upon himself personally to conduct the traditions of
the school. His zeal for knowledge ate up another fifteen minutes,
during which the prefects showed unmistakable signs of boredom.

"Oh, it was a giddy time," said Beetle, afterwards, in dismantled
Number Five. "He gibbered a bit, and I kept him on the gibber, and
then he dictated about a half of Dolabella & Co."

"Good old Dolabella! Friend of mine. Yes?" said Stalky, pensively.

"Then we had to ask him how every other word was spelt, of course, and
he gibbered a lot more. He cursed me and MacLagan (Mac played up like
a trump) and Randall, and the 'materialized ignorance of the
unscholarly middle classes,' 'lust for mere marks,' and all the rest.
It was what you might call a final exhibition--a last attack--a giddy
par-ergon."

"But o' course he was blind squiffy when he wrote the paper. I hope
you explained that?" said Stalky.

"Oh, yes. I told Tulke so. I said an immoral prefect an' a drunken
house-master were legitimate inferences. Tulke nearly blubbed. He's
awfully shy of us since Mary's time."

Tulke preserved that modesty till the last moment--till the
journey-money had been paid, and the boys were filling the brakes
that took them to the station. Then the three tenderly constrained
him to wait a while.

"You see, Tulke, you may be a prefect," said Stalky, "but I've left
the Coll. Do you see, Tulke, dear?"

"Yes, I see. Don't bear malice, Stalky."

"Stalky? Curse your impudence, you young cub," shouted Stalky,
magnificent in top-hat, stiff collar, spats, and high-waisted,
snuff-colored ulster. "I want you to understand that _I'm_ Mister
Corkran, an' you're a dirty little schoolboy."

"Besides bein' frabjously immoral," said McTurk. "Wonder you aren't
ashamed to foist your company on pure-minded boys like us."

"Come on, Tulke,' cried Naughten, from the prefects' brake.

"Yes, we're comin'. Shove up and make room, you Collegers. You've all
got to be back next term, with your 'Yes, sir,' and 'Oh, sir,' an'
'No sir' an' 'Please sir'; but before we say good-by we're going to
tell you a little story. Go on, Dickie" (this to the driver); "we're
quite ready. Kick that hat-box under the seat, an' don't crowd your
Uncle Stalky."

"As nice a lot of high-minded youngsters as you'd wish to see," said
McTurk, gazing round with bland patronage. "A trifle immoral, but
then--boys will be boys. It's no good tryin' to look stuffy, Carson.
_Mister_ Corkran will now oblige with the story of Tulke an' Mary
Yeo!"

SLAVES OF THE LAMP.

Part II.

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.

"I've had to cut the service," said the Infant; "but that's no reason
why my vast stores of experience should be lost to posterity." He was
just thirty, and in that same summer an imperious wire drew me to his
baronial castle: "Got good haul; ex _Tamar_. Come along."

It was an unusually good haul, arranged with a single eye to my
benefit. There was a baldish, broken-down captain of Native Infantry,
shivering with ague behind an indomitable red nose--and they called
him Captain Dickson. There was another captain, also of Native
Infantry, with a fair mustache; his face was like white glass, and
his hands were fragile, but he answered joyfully to the cry of
Tertius. There was an enormously big and well-kept man, who had
evidently not campaigned for years, clean-shaved, soft-voiced, and
cat-like, but still Abanazar for all that he adorned the Indian
Political Service; and there was a lean Irishman, his face tanned
blue-black with the suns of the Telegraph Department. Luckily the
baize doors of the bachelors' wing fitted tight, for we dressed
promiscuously in the corridor or in each other's rooms, talking,
calling, shouting, and anon waltzing by pairs to songs of Dick Four's
own devising.

There were sixty years of mixed work to be sifted out between us, and
since we had met one another from time to time in the quick
scene-shifting of India--a dinner, camp, or a race-meeting here; a
dak-bungalow or railway station up country somewhere else--we had
never quite lost touch. Infant sat on the banisters, hungrily and
enviously drinking it in. He enjoyed his baronetcy, but his heart
yearned for the old days.

It was a cheerful babel of matters personal, provincial, and imperial,
pieces of old call-over lists, and new policies, cut short by the
roar of a Burmese gong, and we went down not less than a quarter of a
mile of stairs to meet Infant's mother, who had known us all in our
school-days and greeted us as if those had ended a week ago. But it
was fifteen years since, with tears of laughter, she had lent me a
gray princess-skirt for amateur theatricals.

That was a dinner from the "Arabian Nights," served in an eighty-foot
hall full of ancestors and pots of flowering roses, and, what was
more impressive, heated by steam. When it was ended and the little
mother had gone away--("You boys want to talk, so I shall say
good-night now")--we gathered about an apple-wood fire, in a gigantic
polished steel grate, under a mantelpiece ten feet high, and the
Infant compassed us about with curious liqueurs and that kind of
cigarette which serves best to introduce your own pipe.

"Oh, bliss!" grunted Dick Four from a sofa, where he had been packed
with a rug over him. "First time I've been warm since I came home."

We were all nearly on top of the fire, except Infant, who had been
long enough at home to take exercise when he felt chilled. This is a
grisly diversion, but much affected by the English of the Island.

"If you say a word about cold tubs and brisk walks," drawled McTurk,
"I'll kill you, Infant. I've got a liver, too. 'Member when we used
to think it a treat to turn out of our beds on a Sunday
morning--thermometer fifty-seven degrees if it was summer--and bathe
off the Pebbleridge? Ugh!"

"'Thing I don't understand," said Tertius, "was the way we chaps used
to go down into the lavatories, boil ourselves pink, and then come up
with all our pores open into a young snow-storm or a black frost. Yet
none of our chaps died, that I can remember."

"Talkin' of baths," said McTurk, with a chuckle, "'member our bath in
Number Five, Beetle, the night Rabbits-Eggs rocked King? What
wouldn't I give to see old Stalky now! He is the only one of the two
Studies not here."

"Stalky is the great man of his Century," said Dick Four.

"How d'you know?" I asked.

"How do I know?" said Dick Four, scornfully. "If you've ever been in a
tight place with Stalky you wouldn't ask."

"I haven't seen him since the camp at Pindi in '87," I said. "He was
goin' strong then--about seven feet high and four feet through."

"Adequate chap. Infernally adequate," said Tertius, pulling his
mustache and staring into the fire.

"Got dam' near court-martialed and broke in Egypt in '84," the Infant
volunteered. "I went out in the same trooper with him--as raw as he
was. Only _I_ showed it, and Stalky didn't."

"What was the trouble?" said McTurk, reaching forward absently to
twitch my dress-tie into position.

"Oh, nothing. His colonel trusted him to take twenty Tommies out to
wash, or groom camels, or something at the back of Suakin, and Stalky
got embroiled with Fuzzies five miles in the interior. He conducted a
masterly retreat and wiped up eight of 'em. He knew jolly well he'd
no right to go out so far, so he took the initiative and pitched in a
letter to his colonel, who was frothing at the mouth, complaining of
the 'paucity of support accorded to him in his operations.' Gad, it
might have been one fat brigadier slangin' another! Then he went into
the Staff Corps."

"That--is--entirely--Stalky," said Abanazar from his arm-chair.

"You've come across him, too?" I said.

"Oh, yes," he replied in his softest tones. "I was at the tail of
that--that epic. Don't you chaps know?"

We did not--Infant, McTurk, and I; and we called for information very
politely.

"'Twasn't anything," said Tertius. "We got into a mess up in the
Khye-Kheen Hills a couple o' years ago, and Stalky pulled us through.
That's all."

McTurk gazed at Tertius with all an Irishman's contempt for the
tongue-tied Saxon.

"Heavens!" he said. "And it's you and your likes govern Ireland.
Tertius, aren't you ashamed?"

"Well, I can't tell a yarn. I can chip in when the other fellow starts
_bukhing_. Ask him." He pointed to Dick Four, whose nose gleamed
scornfully over the rug.

"I knew you wouldn't," said Dick Four. "Give me a whiskey and soda.
I've been drinking lemon-squash and ammoniated quinine while you
chaps were bathin' in champagne, and my head's singin' like a top."

He wiped his ragged mustache above the drink; and, his teeth
chattering in his head, began: "You know the Khye-Kheen-Malo't
expedition, when we scared the souls out of 'em with a field force
they daren't fight against? Well, both tribes--there was a coalition
against us--came in without firing a shot; and a lot of hairy
villains, who had no more power over their men than I had, promised
and vowed all sorts of things. On that very slender evidence, Pussy
dear--"

"I was at Simla," said Abanazar, hastily.

"Never mind, you're tarred with the same brush. On the strength of
those tuppenny-ha'penny treaties, your asses of Politicals reported
the country as pacified, and the Government, being a fool, as usual,
began road-makin'--dependin' on local supply for labor. 'Member
_that_, Pussy? 'Rest of our chaps who'd had no look-in during the
campaign didn't think there'd be any more of it, and were anxious to
get back to India. But I'd been in two of these little rows before,
and I had my suspicions. I engineered myself, _summa_ingenio_, into
command of a road-patrol--no shovellin', only marching up and down
genteelly with a guard. They'd withdrawn all the troops they could,
but I nucleused about forty Pathans, recruits chiefly, of my
regiment, and sat tight at the base-camp while the road-parties went
to work, as per Political survey."

"Had some rippin' sing-songs in camp, too," said Tertius.

"My pup"--thus did Dick Four refer to his subaltern--"was a pious
little beast. He didn't like the sing-songs, and so he went down with
pneumonia. I rootled round the camp, and found Tertius gassing about
as a D.A.Q.M.G., which, God knows, he isn't cut out for. There were
six or eight of the old Coll. at base-camp (we're always in force for
a frontier row), but I'd heard of Tertius as a steady old hack, and I
told him he had to shake off his D.A.Q.M.G. breeches and help _me_.
Tertius volunteered like a shot, and we settled it with the
authorities, and out we went--forty Pathans, Tertius, and me, looking
up the road-parties. Macnamara's--'member old Mac, the Sapper, who
played the fiddle so damnably at Umballa?--Mac's party was the last
but one. The last was Stalky's. He was at the head of the road with
some of his pet Sikhs. Mac said he believed he was all right."

"Stalky _is_ a Sikh," said Tertius. "He takes his men to pray at the
Durbar Sahib at Amritzar, regularly as clockwork, when he can."

"Don't interrupt, Tertius. It was about forty miles beyond Mac's
before I found him; and my men pointed out gently, but firmly, that

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