The Project Gutenberg eBook of Captains of Harley: A School Story

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Captains of Harley: A School Story

Author: Hylton Cleaver

Illustrator: H. M. Brock

Release date: December 15, 2019 [eBook #60926]

Language: English



E-text prepared by Richard Tonsing, Tim Lindell,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


A Story of Harley


[See p. 273.







When he hit the boards he lay still” (See page 273) Frontispiece in colour
He began to trot up the field like a pup with a slipper 28
The head advanced upon them in growing anger 98
“‘The match is scratched, sir,’ said he 148
“‘I think you’ve seen that before?’” 208


A wiry, grave-faced youngster sat in the corner of the railway carriage watching a stupid parent saying good-bye to a stupid boy.

He was glad that nobody had come to see him off, for he had now the satisfaction of knowing that his own father was a father more worth having than any other he had seen yet. Also he could look upon the pitiable scene now being enacted before him from the standpoint of one who at least could be trusted to get into the right carriage without leaping out by the other door to see if it were really labelled “Harley” on both sides. This fat boy had done that, and afterwards he had sat down very heavily on a packet of sandwiches and was unaware of it. The boy in the corner wondered if they would be sticking to him when he stood up. As for the parent of the fat boy, he stood outside looking nervously towards the engine, and his raincoat, which was unbuttoned, blew this way and that in the breeze; once it had somewhat foolishly knocked some buns off a push-cart. He wore a hat poised far forward over his nose, and he had flat feet.

Whilst the boy in the corner sat watching with thoughtful eyes, the man broke suddenly into a rapid clog dance and beckoned to his son. Above the rat-a-tat of his feet upon the platform could be heard his voice plaintively upraised:

“Arthur! Arthur! Come here! Jump out as 10quickly as you possibly can. I have something to say to you.”

Arthur took just one glad leap into the open, landing upon his father’s foot. Then, clapping his ear against his father’s lips, he listened with a coy interest to his urgent whispers, until he was suddenly gripped by the elbow and spun upon his heel.

“Get in at once, my boy, get in at once!” his parent was commanding. “At once, I say. The train is about to go. Get in quickly ... quickly.”

Arthur fell in head-first, and arrived limply half on the seat and half on the floor. Then he slowly clawed his way on to the cushions and subsided. But now once again there sounded that terrible parent’s staccato voice. The unhappy boy was hooked by the arm with an umbrella.

“It is not going yet after all,” he was told. “Come out again. Come out for a moment. I have something to say to you.”

The wiry boy in the corner began to feel sorry for Arthur: he was perspiring so very freely. However, there followed confidence after confidence until, finally and for the last time, the father threw his son bodily into the carriage like a sack of potatoes.

The blast of a whistle had reached his expectant ears.

“Get in! Get in!” he was crying. “For goodness’ sake do get in! What a foolish boy you are. You will certainly miss the train. Be sure to write. Good-bye ... good-bye ... good-bye!”

Then the train was really moving out of the station at last. Numberless boys in Harley caps were scrambling into carriages, and as the little man with the goatee beard gave one final wave of his glove to his departing son, two young men cannoned into him from behind, and his hat flew violently forwards and outwards, causing him to make a somewhat ludicrous exit from the boy in the corner’s field of 11view. Next the foremost of his assailants had sprung for the carriage door and they had tumbled in.

One of the two seemed a little embarrassed at the diversion they had caused, and sat down modestly in a corner. The other wiped his forehead, and then turned and beheld Arthur with both interest and delight.

The portly Arthur was sitting stiffly upright and staring at his ticket with wide protuberant eyes, the while he trembled like unto one smitten with ague. He looked up at the boy in the corner and gaped. He tried to speak. Words failed him. At last a low moan escaped his lips.

“My ticket! My ticket! Father has taken it away with him and he—” he paused and collected himself for a bellow of despair—“he has given me his own return ticket to Ealing!”

The boy in the corner looked at him as if one might have expected something like this would have occurred after all that palaver, and the brief silence that followed his sensational news was only broken by a peculiar grunt that would not be stifled. Then up spoke one of the late arrivals. Both were evidently boys of some seniority and wore bowler hats. The one who spoke now had a lean and humorous countenance lit by strangely bright eyes.

“Nick,” said he to his companion, “look out of the window. Do you see anyone coming?”

The young gentleman addressed as Nick was beaming thoughtfully as if to himself, and he did not at once obey.

“I will look myself,” said the other, rising impatiently and leaning far out. “Yes, I can see a cloud of dust. Right in the middle of it there is the figure of a man bounding along the road at such a break-neck speed that his feet are scarcely touching the ground at all. It appears,” he added, turning to Arthur, “to be your sportsmanlike father.” He 12coughed. “His chances of catching us are somewhat small, of course. The train is now going at full speed. Your father is certainly making a very fine effort indeed ... his movements are not unlike those of a good-class cat ... but he will, I fear, be outdistanced by the puff-puff. Your father——”

The fat boy could stand this no longer. He pushed his head fiercely out of the window under the other’s arm.

“Where?” he demanded. “Where’s my father?” He looked harder still. “Why,” said he, “we’re only just out of the station. There’s no cloud of dust at all.”

“No,” confessed the other. “Now that I come to look with my other eye I must admit that I do not see it so clearly myself. Still there might have been. It is a pretty picture to conjure up—your father absolutely running himself to a standstill to get back his ticket to Ealing.”

After this there was silence for a little while. The bright-eyed youth resumed his seat and appeared to be thinking things over. He threw his bowler on to the rack and passed a hand thoughtfully over his hair.

At last he leaned forward, resting his elbows upon his knees, and faced Arthur.

Then he inclined his head sideways towards his fair-haired comrade.

“That robust-looking fellow over there is known as Terence Nicholson,” said he, weighing his words. “He has been three years in the Harley Cricket Eleven, and now he’s in the Rugger side, so be careful what you say. His brother’s called ‘Old Nick,’ and he’s a master at school. Very likely you’ll see him walking along the footboards on his hands if you look outside. My own name,” he paused, in order to give added emphasis to the noble word, “is Rouse.”

13He did not care to introduce himself as the probable captain of Rugby football during the coming term, for Rouse was not conceited about the things that he could do. Oddly enough he was only conceited about the things that he could not.

“A beak called Mould,” he announced, “once told me when I was construing Latin that I had a very inventive brain.” He tapped his forehead significantly. “He was entirely correct. You see in me a man who thinks for exercise rather than for profit, and it will comfort you to know that I have already devised a way of escape for you in your astounding dilemma. I ask myself: ‘Now how is this poor misguided creature ever going to pass through the iron barriers of Harley with only a silly little ticket to Ealing in his hand?’ And the answer is this: ‘I will ask him to give that ticket to me.’”

The fat boy reached out a trembling hand and gave over his ticket somewhat fearfully.

Rouse took it and solemnly tore it into a hundred pieces. The fat boy screamed.

“Oh, you’ve spoilt it!”

“Certainly,” admitted Rouse, “it is a trifle bent. But why? Because now nobody knows whether it is a ticket to Harley or the Federated Malay States. Will they, however, suppose that you would be such an ass as to buy a ticket to Ealing when you intended proceeding to Harley? I think not. You have to give up your ticket at the other end, and you’ll give it up, that’s all. It will be in pieces, but there’s no law against that. The warden at the gate will say: ‘Hi, here you! What’s this?’ and you’ll say: ‘That, sir, is my ticket,’ and you’ll pour it generously into his open hands. He’ll never know. He’ll think it’s a practical joke, scowl at you, and pass you through with the toe of his boot.”

There was an awed silence. Rouse was well 14satisfied with the effect of his words. Suddenly however there spoke up Terence Nicholson from his corner. It was the first time that he had been able to get a word in and he spoke modestly.

“Yes,” said he, “that’s all very well; only the ticket to Harley is green and his ticket to Ealing’s red. That’s all.”

There came a silence of several moments, whilst those present considered this point with new interest, and at last Terence shook his head regretfully.

“There’s always something wrong with your schemes,” said he. “You don’t grow any older. You don’t improve a bit.”

And thereupon there came a rush of air and a roar and the train had entered a tunnel. The light spluttered hopefully for a moment and then died a natural death. They were plunged into darkness.

At last the melancholy voice of Rouse was again uplifted in a sonorous protest that came heavily through the darkness as if in pleading:

“Well, you’re always very clever at picking holes,” said he. “In common with the rest of Harley’s populace you cherish that silly notion that except for a certain knack in playing footer I am one of the most useless and incapable creatures ever built. Let me hear you make a suggestion, my lad.”

“Well, if you ask me,” said Terence, “I should say, let him tell the truth.”

Rouse cleared his throat.

“Well, I think you may be right. It’ll be difficult for anyone to believe that poor boy capable of practising deceit. In fact one may say that he looks strongly like a boy who could be depended upon to forget his ticket.”

The train came suddenly into daylight again and Rouse stopped abruptly.

The fat boy was weeping.

15Rouse stared at him for a moment, then looked askance at Terence, and finally he turned a sternly prefectorial eye upon the boy in the corner who had hitherto somewhat escaped his notice. The boy looked back at him a little uncertainly with a half smile. He was not at all sure whether it was good form to laugh at a boy who was crying. Rouse gave him no hint. He just looked: and presently the other blinked at him apologetically. Actually Rouse was deciding, as he afterwards told Terence, what a peculiarly good-looking kid he was.

“What’s your name?” said he at last.

“Carr,” said the boy in the corner.

“And which house are you going to?”

“Mr Morley’s, I think.”

“Over that house,” said Rouse, “I weave my spell. Also Friend Nicholson there. We were in that house when an arch-idiot named Mould ruled over our form, and at one time I must confess we appeared to be sinking. Yet, as we came up for the third time, so to speak, he was removed, and we survived. You’ll find Morley all right.” He turned to Arthur a little awkwardly. “Don’t answer if you’d rather not,” said he courteously, “but to which house are you being admitted?”

The fat boy did not raise his head. He simply continued to weep, and at last there broke from his lips these sad words: “I want my t-t-ticket.”

Rouse fumbled in his pocket and at last produced a small piece of chalk.

“Here you are,” said he. “Draw yourself one on the wall.”

From that time onward the conversation was maintained solely by the expectant captain of Rugby football. Nobody else seemed to have anything to say, but he had a great deal. Terence Nicholson sat in his corner with the reminiscent smile of the man one may notice in the stalls of any theatre—the 16man who has seen the show twice before but who is enjoying it all none the less for that.

Bobbie Carr listened with deep and genuine interest, but he said nothing. He was too hypnotised. His large eyes followed Rouse’s every movement and never wavered.

Arthur merely swayed backwards and forwards in his seat, and sometimes when the train stopped with a jerk he was jolted forward on to the knees of the boy in the corner, over whom he hung with sagging head; then when the train started again was bumped back so that he cracked his skull against the wall of the compartment, but he seemed not to care.

At last they reached Harley.

As soon as they had alighted the large figure of a man suddenly appeared from nowhere and loomed over them. The man was dressed exceedingly well and exceedingly comfortably in Harris tweeds. He wore a soft hat and a club tie, and his large feet were enclosed in large brogue shoes. Even his pipe was large. His hand reached out and rested upon Terence’s shoulder. Finally he looked at Rouse.

“As for you,” said he, “it’s no use you saying you’re not there, because I can see your ears flapping behind that grin.”

The gentleman addressed endeavoured to keep a straight face, whilst from the near locality Arthur was to be heard lamenting his ill-fortune and crying aloud for advice.

For the last year or so Terence had been doing his best to overtake Toby in point of size, but he was still a trifle overshadowed by his brother’s large form, and he stood beside him modestly, as if pleased to claim a certain reflected glory. He could never see any reason for self-conceit in the fact that he had been three years in the Harley Cricket Eleven and one year in the First Fifteen. The only thing he was 17really proud about was the fact that Toby was his brother.

“There’s rather bad news,” said Toby at last. “I’m afraid you’ll be very sorry.”

They looked at him inquiringly.

“The Grey Man has been very ill,” said he, puffing slowly at his pipe, “and he’s not coming back. We’ve got a new Head.”

The boy who had sat in the corner was standing hesitantly behind them, and he was amazed to find Rouse struck dumb. For Rouse just stood and looked first at Toby and then at Terence, and it was a long time before he spoke.

Terence asked quietly: “Who’s coming instead of him then?”

And Toby answered: “He’s a man called Roe. That’s all I can tell you.”

And then the pair of them seemed to consider the news with a fresh gravity, until at last Rouse shook his head sadly and said:

“I loved that man, you know.”

Coming from one who throughout the journey had seemed to be merely a rather superior sort of clown, this statement took Bobbie Carr by surprise. He stood there beside his bag, watching with wide eyes, waiting for more. But little more came. Rouse was a young man who could never make up his mind to grow up, and with the Grey Man he had never had to don any hypocritical cloak of stiff severity just because he was becoming one of the oldest boys at Harley, and he had got along very well indeed. Perhaps it was going to be different now. He picked up his bag and moved slowly away beside Terence, whilst Toby watched them go slowly and sadly along the platform towards the barrier, and as Bobbie followed after them he saw Rouse shake his head solemnly and heard him say:

“It’s a bad business. A bad business. Except 18for Toby, he was about the only master who’ll ever understand me, Terence, my lad.”

And when he knew them better Bobbie came to realise that it was only in moments of considerable gravity that Rouse ever called his friend by his proper Christian name.

At the barrier Rouse turned. He seemed suddenly to have remembered the fat boy. At last he observed him making his way flat-footedly and in extreme distress along the platform, and he beckoned.

Arthur increased his speed and came up alongside, breathing heavily and with his mouth open. Rouse looked at him gravely. All the heart seemed to have gone out of him. He drew the ticket-collector’s attention to the fat boy indifferently.

“This boy,” said he, “has come without his ticket. Will you chronicle the incident in your annals?”

The collector looked at him resentfully. In four years Rouse had never yet passed his barrier without saying something to him which he could not for the life of him understand.

“Will you,” continued Rouse, “record his history in your black book?”

The man turned patiently to the fat boy.

“You come without your ticket. How did you do that?”

“He found it easy,” observed Rouse in a hollow voice.

“What’s your name?”

Arthur trembled before the glare of the man in uniform, and stuttered out the simple answer: “Coppin.”

“What will he do?” he inquired of Rouse as soon as they were clear of the station.

“He will communicate with the Headmaster,” answered Rouse, “and you will never be allowed to travel by train again.”

19And then he lapsed into silence. At last Terence turned to look at him, and Rouse glanced up and sighed.

“I shall miss the Grey Man,” said he. “The school won’t seem the same.”



Rouse was walking slowly from the school towards the playing fields. He was clad in a blazer surmounted by a wide school muffler, wound several times round his neck, and upon his head he wore a velvet cap heavily embroidered with brocade. Rouse was at peace with all the world. The wonderful thing had happened at last: he was captain of Rugby football at Harley. That it would come had been a foregone conclusion amongst those who knew. Rouse himself had been a little doubtful. For one thing he was not yet in the Sixth, and though he had certainly been made a prefect in spite of this fact the previous term, he knew that he was commonly regarded as a boy who could see nothing but the silly side of things. He had been sorry about this because, in spite of his extravagant sense of humour and his consistent lightheartedness, he could be serious enough over things that really mattered, and to him Rugger was one of the things that really did. Only his closest friends were permitted to understand this side of his character, for he was sensitive about it, but he found that just as it pays one man to seem a fool so it sometimes paid him to maintain a reputation for irresponsibility. Toby and Terence knew him best, and the Grey Man had grown to understand him; extraordinarily well too. These had known that if he were elected captain of football he would make good. Moreover the school had wanted him to be elected. He was easily the most popular 21player in the whole of Harley, and besides, he was the most senior of the old colours, which was always the main consideration in electing the new captain.

Well, they had elected him. It had been quite an uproarious meeting, too; there had been no end of enthusiasm. One small clique had certainly put up another man whom they claimed was of equal seniority in the Fifteen, but on hearing his name proposed the gentleman in question had instantly and somewhat confusedly refused to stand, loudly disclaiming any desire to skipper a team which could claim the leadership of a man like Rouse; and amidst loud and approving cheers he had seized the hand of Rouse and wrung it with the utmost enthusiasm; after which his friends had been at some pains to explain to their neighbours that they had only mentioned his name to let him know that he had not been entirely forgotten.

So Rouse had really achieved his great ambition.... It was hard not to chuckle. He progressed steadily towards the practice Rugger ground, singing gently to himself and picturing the season they were going to have. Secretly he longed to organise some great rag which should celebrate this event, for hitherto his life had been largely made up of rags. He realised now, however, that he would have to steady down. He had to train a team and lead them on the field, and he had to help Toby Nicholson teach small boys Rugger. That would take all his time, and for such employment it was worth while foregoing rags.

Presently he came within sight of the football ground that was his destination. Already a crowd was spreading along the touch-lines. He fingered the switch in his hand with affection. This switch had seen very good service, for it had been handed on from captain to captain from time immemorial. You may have thought that Rouse was about to 22play Rugby football. He was not. He was about to teach it. On the first day of each winter term at Harley (and also on other days throughout the season) two teams are selected to compete in a practice game, and they consist of small boys and idle boys and new boys. The excuse that some of these may not know Rugby football is of no account. They attend for instruction, and the remainder of the school line up with their waistcoats comfortably loosened in order that they may laugh the more heartily. The games master referees and the captain of football is armed with this switch, a cut from which is awarded, on the occasion of each scrum, to the last man into it, whilst whenever a three-quarter becomes possessed of the ball he is pursued up the field by this selfsame man, running rapidly and urging him with word and gesture and such occasional flicks of his switch as cause each boy, before the game is done, to feel himself possessed of a demon of speed and agility. There is also a cut for any boy who, in making a tackle, fails to go for his man at the knees. It may be noted that old Harleyans attribute the great success of the school at Rugby football very largely to the excellent effect produced by the captain’s switch in junior games; and one famous international has laid it down that in any big match in which he has broken through with the ball upon his chest he has invariably reached by instinct for that extra yard of speed which comes from the fear of a young man racing behind him with a switch, and has thanked his Alma Mater that he was taught to do so. Nor will you ever see an old Harleyan last into a scrum or tackling high. It is a good sign.

The crowd made way for Rouse admiringly, and a characteristic smile, which in a young boy would have looked more roguish than anything else, began to appear at the corners of his mouth. In a game 23like this Rouse was in his element. He looked thoughtfully round the players and finally glanced up and down the touch-lines as if in search of any who had evaded his clutch. There came a ripple of amusement. Some of those present recalled that on the occasion of the corresponding match last year those who laughed the most uproariously from the touch-line had been marked down by Toby Nicholson’s eagle eye during the game, and at half time had been called upon to perform themselves. It was possible that this would occur again, and throughout the world those who have once succumbed to any catch are the keenest layers of the trap for the next man.

At last the whistle blew. Next moment Rouse had skipped nimbly into the midst of things, encouraging all with loud cries, and the idea of the switch in Rouse’s exuberant hands caused a great and lasting enthusiasm amongst the players that was exceedingly stirring. Forwards fought for a place in the front row of the scrum, and many a youth who thought himself likely to be considered late might be heard loudly declaiming the fact that he had already packed down once, but finding himself the fourth man in the front row had been compelled to retire.

At last one line of three-quarters was fairly away with the ball, and Rouse went racing across from one to the other, whirling his arm to ensure that each man took his pass at top speed. Ultimately the wing received the ball, and being entirely new to the game clearly did not know what to do with it. For a moment he paused and looked round in sheer bewilderment. It was fatal. There came a rush of air, and Rouse was up alongside, driving him forward and shouting aloud definite instructions. A tall thin boy came towards them and made his tackle; in a mad moment he went high. Too late he realised his mistake. Out of the corner of his eyes he was 24conscious of the switch, and his hands slid down to the runner’s knees and tightened their grip till both came to the ground and rolled over and over, whilst the ball flew forwards and was gathered by an excited youth in abnormally long knickerbockers of homemade design. Then, high above the laughter of the crowd, there sounded a great bellow, something akin to the cry of a thoroughly mad hyæna. At first it was difficult to locate. Rouse paused and his eyes passed swiftly down either touch-line. The laughter stopped, and he stepped out and cut lightly at a boy who had just received the ball in his hands and had not got away so smartly as he should. The game proceeded. Now and again that loud, extravagant laugh sounded across the field and caused others to turn in search of it. As a noise it was altogether novel. Evidently some poor boy was absolutely unable to control his merriment, and unaware of the fate that would follow him he gave it full rein. At last there could be no doubt who was doing it; the laugh became a magnet. Every head was turned towards it. Half time came, and Rouse spun on his heel and located it definitely. He walked across. On the touch-line he stretched out his hand and pointed out the unfortunate creature. It was the boy of such surprising fatness, the stupid-looking boy, and he stopped laughing abruptly. Toby Nicholson had moved up alongside Rouse.

“Look here,” said he, “why is it you are not playing?”

The fat boy shook his head.

“I don’t play that game.”

Rouse thrust his hands into his pockets and nodded his head.

“Ah,” said he, “many a man is walking down the Strand to-day with the linings of his pockets hanging out, many a lordly mansion has been crumbled into dust, many a stately avenue of elms laid low, many 25a boy will be knocking at the door of Dr Barnardo’s Home to-night ... all because somebody hasn’t learned the lesson of Rugby football. Do you know that?”

“Why, no,” said the fat boy quakingly.

Toby had produced a small book.

“Your name?”

“Coppin, sir.”

“Go quickly to the changing-rooms and attire yourself for the fray. You will be just in time for the second half.”

“But I ... I ... I can’t play this game.”

“You will soon learn,” said Toby consolingly. “Time was I didn’t know how to play it.” He turned. “You see that boy over there in the long knickerbockers? That boy’s name is Henry Hope. That boy will never learn how to play Rugby football. He has every disadvantage. For one thing he is short-sighted. He cannot distinguish one jersey from another. He tackles his own side. It doesn’t matter. He plays the game just the same and he says that it does him good. You’ll find the same.” He turned to Rouse. “You’d better take this young sportsman to the changing-rooms and fit him out with togs.”

Rouse moved alertly to the fat boy’s side and piloted him out of the crowd and rapidly across the field towards the changing-rooms; and as he went he bubbled to himself delightedly. He turned at last and regarded the unhappy Arthur.

Arthur’s trousers were short and very tight. The sleeves of his coat reached midway between the elbow and the wrist, the buttons of his waistcoat were straining in the leash, and his neck bulged over the top of his collar. The pace was too much for him. He began to pant.

“You’ll feel better with your clothes off,” said Rouse encouragingly. “Hold your breath for just 26a few minutes longer; you’ll be able to let off steam properly as soon as you’re unfastened ... and you will look bonny in shorts.”

He chuckled.

“What is going to happen?” demanded Arthur. “What are they going to make me do?”

Run,” said Rouse hoarsely.

“Shall I be thrown to the ground like those other boys?”

“You will be thrown to the dogs,” was the immediate answer.

“Oh, but it’s such a rough game. I shall be hurt.”

“What? You? Never!” Rouse assured him. “Everybody who falls on you will think you’re an air cushion.”

Further bursts of laughter reached them from across the open, and they turned. To the fat boy’s satisfaction other stragglers were being led in his own track. There was a tall thin boy, and a square boy with hair like hay, and an ordinary-looking boy and an extraordinary-looking boy. They had all been sorted out. He supposed they had all been laughing. Arthur turned back. His world was very drear. He was filled with acute foreboding. They had reached the changing-room. He was led in. Here, so far as those who were waiting on the touch-line were concerned, the curtain fell. At last it was lifted again. The sight was astounding. Arthur was being led back. Behind him came the other boys who had laughed so heartily, but they were unimportant. Arthur held the eye. His extraordinary fatness was now entirely disclosed. Wherever it was possible to bulge Arthur bulged. And his eyes were bulging most of all.

Rouse held him by the arm. Evidently he had had some difficulty in fitting Arthur out, but he was apparently well pleased with the result.

Toby met them and spent a few moments in outlining 27the theory of the game for Arthur’s benefit. Arthur nodded his head dolefully. It was clear that he had not another laugh left in his system. Also he looked cold.

He was led on to the field. The other new-comers were sorted out and instructed to replace some of those who had had enough of it. Then the whistle blew. There came a thump of a boot meeting leather and the ball was sailing towards Arthur. For just one second Arthur regarded it stiffly, transfixed with horror, then he turned and ran rapidly in the other direction. There was a howl of derision. Arthur turned. There was no way of escape. The ball was bouncing after him. It was like a nightmare. From all sides of the field boys were rushing towards it. He gave one choking cry, threw up his hands and fell heavily on his face. Next moment a swarm of forwards had crowded round him and were packing down over his prostrate body. Somebody seized him by the leg and pulled him out of the way. He rose and looked round him with wild eyes. His hair was ruffled. There was mud upon his nose.

Rouse came up and explained to him what he ought to have done. He looked at Rouse dazedly. Rouse inserted him bodily into the scrum, head down, and told him to push.

He fell on his face. Rouse picked him up, and he tottered and fell on his back. The game went on and left him there. Rouse shouted to him, and he rose and stood for a moment with boggling eyes and nodding head, thinking. Toby pointed into the distance and spoke cheering words.

“Chase after it, man! Scoot! Catch ’em up!”

He began to trot foolishly up the field, with Rouse behind him. And then suddenly the ball came sailing towards him again and dropped directly on to his chest. He clutched at it as if for support and Rouse let loose a loud shout of delight.

28“NOW! You’re off. Nothing can stop you!” He whipped him gently into a gallop.

As if suddenly imbued with the spirit of the game Arthur began to show determination. A boy flew at him. Arthur handed him off with violence.

Let me alone!” he cried, suddenly very wrath.

Another essayed to tackle him. Arthur struggled clear of his grasp but overbalanced and let go the ball.

Immediately another boy had sprung forward and gathered it.

Arthur shot after him. He suddenly understood. Everybody was against him. He had to get the ball and everybody was trying to steal it away. The sole idea of the game was that he should be allowed to run about the field holding the ball, and they were all cheating. They wouldn’t let him do it. He caught the thief by his jersey and tugged him back.

His fierce cries sounded across the field.

“Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me!”

He had nearly got it. Somebody pulled him back, and he struggled in his grasp.

“Let me to the ball,” he besought, sobbing with bitterness. “Oh, let me to the ball.”

So they stood back and let him to the ball. Rouse had signed to them.

He had it at last.

He smiled gleefully. He begun to trot up the field like a pup with a slipper. He looked from side to side as if for applause, began to raise his knees higher and higher from the ground. Rouse ran joyously beside him, pointing out the distant goal-line as if it were a promised land and instructing him what to do.

He was delighted beyond measure. He did not know that everybody was standing about the field watching him go, and trying to throttle hysteric laughter. He thought that he was the hero of the hour. At last they were nearly there. It was a good thing because he was beginning to puff.


29“Put it on that line,” said Rouse. “Put it down there, then touch it down.”

He had arrived. He bent obediently and did as he was bid.

“There you are,” said Rouse happily. “You’ve scored a try.”

Arthur turned and looked round and about. Everywhere boys were throwing caps into the air and cheering. It was a great moment. Toby had come up and seemed to be speaking to him, but in the wild noise of applause he could not distinguish a word. He grinned broadly.

At last the thunder of cheers died down.

“That’s Rugger,” said Toby. “It’s a great game. Don’t you think so? You’ll play it all your life now. That’s your first game and you’ll never forget it.”

He never did. Nobody who learns Rugger at Harley ever does.

The boy who had sat in the corner had been learning Rugger that afternoon too, and as he walked slowly off the field a tall fellow, considerably older than he, came up and touched him on the arm.

“What on earth are you doing here?”

Bobbie Carr looked up, then slowly seemed to remember, and to the other it appeared that he turned a little pale. At first he made no answer. He just looked. Eventually he turned away.

The other still held his arm.

“D’you mean to say your father has sent you to a public school?” said he.

He was not a nice-looking fellow. He had a remarkably long and disproportionate nose. Also his lips had a sarcastic turn. His name was Coles.

“This is good,” said he, and gave a short laugh. 30“I must write and tell the gov’nor about this. He’ll be awfully amused. What do you think the fellows here will say when they know what your father is?”

Bobbie Carr looked straight up at him, but there was a queer look of anxiety on his face.

“They’re not going to know,” said he at last. “I’ve promised I wouldn’t say.”

“I should think so,” said Coles. “You won’t be very happy here when they find out he’s a——”

A figure came up suddenly from behind and moved between them. A large hand rested upon Bobbie’s shoulder.

“Well, sonny,” said Rouse. “How did you enjoy it?”



The new Headmaster of Harley was a man of considerable importance and an overpowering belief in himself; for which reason he formed hasty opinions, and having once formed them believed them to be correct for ever afterwards. In appearance he was not unlike a bloodhound in spectacles, and his manner was appropriately grim.

The first case that came before his notice was that of Arthur, and he dealt with it in person. “Because,” said he, “at Wilton I had the reputation of knowing each boy individually, and I should like to know each boy here as soon as I possibly can.”

The railway company had reported that Arthur had had the audacity to travel upon their line without a ticket, and Arthur was accordingly brought in and required to furnish his explanation of the outrage. This he did in the most heart-rending manner, with second-hand sort of tears spurting from his eyes all the time, and with such effect that, after listening to his pitiable tale, the new Head became convinced that he had been set upon in the train by a cowardly ruffian belonging to the school, and apparently even a prefect of it, who had wrenched his ticket from him by brute force and torn it to shreds before his very eyes. Arthur went so far as to give detailed information. The felon’s name was Rouse. He had introduced himself. And he was a friend of a boy called Nicholson, whose brother was a master at school.

32The new Head sent him away with a comforting pat on the shoulder and settled himself down to consider a fitting punishment for the scoundrel who could do such a thing.

Now as luck would have it, that afternoon he was standing in majesty beside his window, looking out upon the kingdom he had come to govern, when his eye lighted upon a Rugby game in progress upon a distant football ground, and he suddenly came to an abrupt decision.

“At Wilton,” he told the bursar, “I had the reputation of only going out to watch games when I was least expected to do so.”

He nodded his head pleasantly.

He would take the boys of Harley completely by surprise. He moved swiftly to the door and disappeared.

As a matter of fact it was, in the result, he himself who was taken by surprise, and he returned with a dour expression and sent for Mr Nicholson.

Toby appeared before him in due course.

It was immediately clear to Toby that in Dr Roe he perceived a gentleman with a strong sense of dramatic effect, and he now stood by and prepared to watch what he imagined would be a very powerful piece of acting, indicating wrath.

The Head was, however, deep in thought, and whilst Toby waited he noticed several little things, the first of which was that the carpet did not match the colouring of the new Headmaster’s nose. He also noticed that Dr Roe’s handwriting sloped backwards, which he knew for a bad sign in any man. He then adjusted the hang of his trousers, blew his nose, wiped his eyes, and commenced to count the roses on one square yard of the wall-paper, first with one eye and then with the other. Finding that the result was the same in each case, and deducing therefrom that his sight was still good, he cleared his throat 33and approached the wall with a view to observing school life from a window.

As soon as he had turned Dr Roe broke into speech, thus to Toby’s mind having him at a disadvantage from the start. When Toby distrusted a man he liked to look in his eye all the time.

The new Head rose slowly to his feet, lifted one hand until it was a suitable height from the table, clenched it and brought it down with a bang upon a large book. He then lifted his hand again, shook his finger at Toby as if in reproach, and began to speak rapidly.

“Only this morning,” said he, “I had a little boy before me who had undoubtedly come up against a bully. He was terrified. He came in here and cried.... He had been set upon in the train and robbed of his ticket. At Wilton I had the reputation of being a lightning judge of character and an infallible one, and I can tell you at once that this boy was undoubtedly speaking the truth. In ten minutes’ conversation I came to know him as well as he knew himself, and I shall watch over him henceforward with interest.” He paused. “I decided,” said he, “to delay punishment of the offender a short while and to get to know more about this bully whilst he still had no reason to suppose that his conduct was known to me. I may tell you that at Wilton I had the reputation of knowing how to wait.”

This seemed to Toby a very useful second string to any man’s bow. Dismissed from the post of Headmaster, Dr Roe would at least be able to find lucrative employment in a smart restaurant.

However, he made no comment.

“This afternoon,” continued the Head, “I went out to watch the boys playing football. Certainly I did not arrive till after half time, but I may tell you that to my mind the game I then witnessed 34was mere tomfoolery—a burlesque, sir—deliberate clowning.”

“Yes, sir,” said Toby cheerfully. “It was the first game of the term. New-comers sides.”

“Then, perhaps, you will tell me,” said the new Head somewhat hotly, “the name of the presumably senior boy—a fellow in a tasselled cap anyway—whose whole object was to get in people’s way and interfere in the game as much as possible, and who did it, moreover, purely to vent his spite against the very boy who was before me this morning?”

“You mean Rouse,” said Toby. “He’s captain of foot——”

The Head rose up and made a fiery gesture.

“I knew it,” said he. “I knew it. They used to say at Wilton that my sense of instinct was uncanny—they used to say that I always guessed right. I guessed right this afternoon. As soon as I saw that little boy being pursued about the grass I knew it was Rouse.... I knew the little fellow had been speaking the truth. Rouse, Mr Nicholson, was the name of the fellow who tore up his ticket on the journey from London.” He paused sensationally. “It may be,” said he, “that you were engrossed with your duties as referee this afternoon. Possibly you did not notice that feature of the game which was most evident to me. Throughout the twenty minutes that I was there the fellow Rouse was on the little boy’s track without respite. I personally saw him viciously cane the lad on the field, and a worse example of flagrant bullying has seldom come before my notice.”

Toby cleared his throat and began to explain.

“I don’t care one atom about custom,” said the Head, when he had listened thirty seconds. “I may be new to this school but I am not an idiot. Public School customs are in constant abuse—take this very example. You teach Rugby football with a switch. 35The first thing that I notice is that a senior boy, against whom evidence has already been laid, is deliberately using his switch to terrorise a little boy.”

“Oh no,” said Toby, with a polite smile. “You’re——”

The Head made another gesture.

“Oh yes,” said he, with considerable force. “Surely I can use my own eyes!”

Toby began again.

“Don’t argue, Mr Nicholson,” said Dr Roe. “At Wilton I had the reputation of rarely showing my temper, but of showing it very thoroughly when it was roused. And it is roused now. Do you mean to tell me that this boy is actually captain of football?”

“Yes,” said Toby mildly; “and a very good captain too. He’s one of the most popular boys in the school.”

The Head was somewhat taken aback.

“Well, at all events,” said he, “I don’t remember noticing him in the Sixth Form.”

It was an awkward point. Toby moved slightly upon his feet. He was not going to confess that Rouse was one of the school’s pet dunces.

“He’s not in the Sixth Form yet,” said he.

The Head clapped his hands and sprang nimbly from one foot to the other.

“Then,” said he, “how can he be captain of football if he’s not even a prefect?”

“He is a prefect. The late Headmaster specially wished him to be. He knew that he would be captain of football this term, and he considered it would be a very good thing indeed for the boy’s character. Of course the captain of each sport here is a prefect ex officio, whether he’s in the Sixth or not, and the Head wished him to have a full term as a prefect before he became captain of Rugger.”

36The Head considered this point with a portentous frown, and at last he looked up at Toby and said:

“I think you had better know at once that those are not my principles. To my mind the boy who leads the school team on to the field of play should be the boy who is captain of the school, and if by any chance he himself is not a very keen footballer, then the next senior boy should take his place. Boys have to be made to learn that being able to kick a football in a certain direction with a certain force is not everything in life. And they learn that best if they find that a boy is not allowed to be captain of football unless he is also one of the most senior boys in the Sixth Form.”

He paused and sat down like one who is conscious of having performed a righteous duty. Toby began to go hot and cold all over.

“Every school has its unwritten laws, sir,” he began. “It has always been the understanding here that each game is captained by the boy who is best or most senior at it, irrespective of his scholastic ability.”

The Head grew visibly annoyed.

“I have already told you that I do not agree with that principle, Mr Nicholson,” said he; “and to-morrow I shall visit this boy’s form and question him on his general knowledge. It remains to be seen from the opinion I then form whether I consider him a suitable boy to remain a prefect under my headmastership, or to lead the school on the football field. I must say that from the judgment I formed of him this afternoon he is most unsuitable for those duties.”

Toby essayed a protest.

“But, sir,” said he, “this boy has been elected by the school.... He is their chosen captain.”

Dr Roe rose in his majesty. Unfortunately he was a man of somewhat ordinary build, and as 37against Toby, therefore, he did not in this respect cut much ice. He lifted his hand above his head, and bringing it slowly horizontal, indicated Toby with a bunch of fingers.

“Mr Nicholson,” said he, “whilst I am Headmaster of this school no boy is elected to any position without my authority. I have been a schoolmaster all my life, and at Wilton I had the reputation of making sometimes apparently ruthless decisions and of sticking to them through thick and thin. I do not crave popularity.... I have strong ideas and a strong will. If necessary the boys here will be made to understand that at once. It may save considerable heart burnings afterwards.”

He paused and glared at Toby as if in challenge. Toby declined with thanks. It was clear that he would not improve matters by saying more at the moment. There was a brief silence. At last the new Head looked up.

“There is another thing,” said he. “I like games to be taken seriously. Such frivolity as I saw this afternoon tends to have a very bad effect upon a boy. I hope you will bear that in mind in future games which you conduct.”

Toby drew a deep breath.

“I think you will understand better, sir,” said he, “if you will listen to me for a moment. The boy that you think was being terrorised had been laughing as loudly as any boy possibly could throughout the first half, whilst other boys with a better spirit were learning to play.”

“Well,” said the Head crossly, “considering he was crying only this morning, why shouldn’t he laugh? I am very glad to know that his talk with me had so reassured him.”

“It is a bad thing,” said Toby, “for boys who are learning a game to be laughed at from the touch-line by those who don’t care to try it themselves. Rugby 38football is compulsory at this school, and that fact has a very excellent effect. It was I who told him to come on and play. There was no bullying.”

“My dear Nicholson,” said Dr Roe, “I have been a schoolmaster longer probably than you have been alive. Do you really think that I do not know a bully when I see one?”

Toby endeavoured to retain his calm.

“It is possible to be mistaken.”

“I am not mistaken,” snapped the other.

“But you see, sir,” insisted Toby, “you haven’t even spoken to Rouse.”

“Because,” said Dr Roe, “I wish to learn all I possibly can about him before I do. I have spoken to the other lad, and I am satisfied that he is telling the truth. I have seen this fellow Rouse making himself a clown at a football match, and I have learnt from you that, although he has been five years at the school, he is not yet in the Sixth Form. It is clear that you have a good opinion of him yourself, but you are, after all, a young man, Nicholson.”

“What has that to do with it?” asked Toby smilingly.

“Well ... I understand,” said the other, “that this boy is the bosom chum of your own brother; and it is therefore not unlikely that he is a friend of your own....” He looked at Toby searchingly. “Under these circumstance, I cannot altogether expect that your good opinion of him is entirely unprejudiced.”

“Then,” said Toby, “why did you trouble to ask my opinion, sir?”

“I sent for you,” said the Head, “because you are games master, and I want to tell you that I do not approve of such buffoonery as took place during the game this afternoon.”

Toby’s natural inclination was to bow politely and ask leave to pack his bag. But it was at just 39such a time as this that his love for Harley grew most profound. So he kept silent, and he stood for a moment looking at the new Headmaster thoughtfully and as clearly in pity as he deemed polite.

“Do you wish to see Rouse?” said he at last.

“Certainly I shall see Rouse—but I shall not see him here. At Wilton I had the reputation of never doing the expected. I shall walk across to his house and speak to his house master. Then I shall visit him in his study. When you are older, Nicholson, you will know that it is in his own haunts, and when he is not expecting visitors, that you find animal or man as he really is.”

Toby’s heart sank. He looked dismally into the future and he could see no sunshine at all. With a Headmaster like this there could be no hope. It was going to be a lean year.

Well, if it was a question of Harley’s principles going under to a man who merely sought to make a sensational entry into the school, he would have to fight. And in the immediate future he would have to fight for Rouse. So in his mind’s eye he made a few movements as of a sailor about to start a hornpipe and followed the Headmaster out of the room. Dr Roe turned.

“That will be all, Mr Nicholson, thank you,” said he. “I will go alone.”



The procession came down the corridor and stopped outside a small door. It was headed by a tall boy, as thin as a match-stick, and with a face so tiny that it seemed to be almost entirely hidden behind a pair of enormous spectacles which he wore tied round his ears with knotted elastic bands. Behind this boy came another of his own age, but less extraordinary in appearance, and behind them, in their turn, came Rouse and Terence Nicholson. The boy in spectacles rejoiced in the name of Henry Hope, and he claimed to have been the devoted admirer of Rouse and Terence longer than anybody else in the school. Certainly no other boy would have dared to go and roust the captain of Rugby football out of his sanctum merely in the hope that he would set right a small minor trouble of his own. It is true that the fact that Rouse happened to be the said captain made a certain difference. Rouse was everybody’s friend and particularly the friend of unhappy juniors. But what made the chief difference was the fact that one of the boys in trouble on this particular occasion was Henry Hope.

Henry drew his crony aside, and they stood for a moment looking at the two seniors in turn with eyes that shone with admiration, until at last Rouse spoke.

“Yes,” said he. “This is the one all right. No. 18, the list said. There can’t be any mistake.”

41“Are you sure that it said No. 18?” asked Terence modestly. “Seems rather odd.”

“My good sir,” responded Rouse, “there is no doubt about it.”

He moved forward and opened the door. Terence came up alongside and they stood for a moment regarding the interior.

“Well, it isn’t a bad one,” said Terence at last.

Rouse regarded him with deep sorrow.

“You are a sunny child.”


Rouse nodded his head.

“You look on the bright side, the side that jolly well isn’t there. Myself, I cannot conceive how by any freak of fancy Henry could possibly have secured a worse hovel than this. It is the first time he’s ever had a study, and now he’s got one that they’ve forgotten about so long that it’s gone to seed. There’s moss growing on the very walls—moss, I tell you. Look at the fireplace. It’s a kind of ‘Spiders’ Retreat.’ They say there’s no study for him, and then after three days they say there is, and they give him one—this—a kennel in the attic. There’s not a stick of furniture in it. True, there’s a picture postcard on the mantelpiece depicting some phase of life in a foreign clime—a man in a red fez picking hops, I think it is. You’ll probably find it’s addressed to some fellow who’s since died of old age. And it’s the only sign that there’s ever been any life in the place at all. I do not see even a modern nail anywhere in the wall to hang your hat on. There’s probably an official ghost attached to this study. The place is absolutely mouldy. The ceiling has caved in and the walls have warped, and the fellows who’ve had studies near here at odd times during the last forty years have been in on organised raids and pinched every blessed thing.” He paused at last for breath. “And you,” he said presently, “you—always 42the gentleman—you—such a one with your joking ways—you open the door and look inside, and then you throw back your head and intone the following words: ‘It isn’t a bad one.’

“Well, it’s better than not having a study at all.”

Indeed it is,” admitted Rouse. “How nice it will be to sit in here on one’s bowler hat, drinking cold tea out of a glove.”

“We’ll rake round for a table for him,” suggested Terence hopefully.

“Yes, and the only way you’ll get one at this period will be by sucking the multiplication table off the back of an exercise-book. It’s three days since term started, my dear old bean.”

Terence persisted.

“I’ve got some photographs in my bag,” said he. “We’ll put them up.”

“Put ’em up? Easier to put them up than for poor old Henry to put up with them. He’ll get pretty weary sitting in here never more than eighteen inches away from his partner as it is. Is his only relaxation to be a turning of the head to gaze upon your likeness on the walls?”

“They aren’t photographs of me.”

“Whom, then, do they portray?”

“One,” responded Terence, with every modesty, “portrays Phyllis Dare in evening dress.”

“Right,” said Rouse more kindly. “Put it up then. Have you any other delight you can stick on the wall for him?”

“Not in my pocket at this moment. But I’ll go and see Toby. He might be able to produce something. If not, perhaps he can hire a bit of furniture.”

“A piano, perchance,” said the other. “There’s plenty of room.”

“Anyway,” said Terence, “I’ll go and see him. Probably he can suggest something.”

43“Very well, my child; and if you see anybody who seems to be at a loose end at all whilst you’re gone, ask him to come back and have a really comfortable sit-down with Henry and a nice cup of hot tea.”

Terence moved away obediently, and when he had gone Rouse took one final look at the study, tossed his head and then, coming to a sudden decision, bade Henry stay there with his friend and wait; then he walked rapidly away down the corridor in search of the house porter, an individual for whose resource he had considerable admiration, partly because he could put lighted matches into his mouth and clench his teeth without putting out the light.

The house porter, who had been at the school only a little over twelve months, was one of those gentlemen that are described in police court reports as “of military appearance,” which means to say that his hair was dressed in that fashion known as a cowlick, and that his moustache was waxed. On hot days, however, this wax used to melt, giving his face a somewhat mournful and untidy appearance. His name was Compton, and at the moment when Rouse burst in upon him he was sitting on a stool in his private den, his knees hunched up under his chin and his eyes fixed rigidly upon the letterpress of a paper-covered novel which he was clutching earnestly in his fists. He did not at once look up, and when eventually he sensed the presence of an intruder he seemed a trifle annoyed. Nevertheless, Rouse greeted him with a variety of graceful gestures before he eventually said his say.

“Acting upon information received,” he explained, “Mr Nicholson and I have just prised open the door of the study allotted to a little boy called Hope, with a view to inspecting its desirability as a residence; and all we have found inside is the portrait of a man in a red fez picking hops.”

44He paused and coughed deprecatingly behind his hand as if loath to complain. Compton looked at him dazedly. Clearly he had not yet thoroughly extricated himself from that romantic world in which men live perpetually in evening dress and speak glibly of their college days. He rose and laid down his novel with a sigh.

“The incident has somewhat unnerved my friend Nicholson,” said Rouse apologetically, “also the boy Hope, and I was quite unable to persuade either of them to come and consult with you. I myself thought that you, if you could, would aid the lad in his dire extremity. You might even be able to tell him where he could find something to sit on—anything would do so long as it hasn’t too many rusty nails in it.” He reached out and indicated Compton’s stool suggestively. “That, for example,” said he, “would suit excellently. We have the whole evening before us, and it would be very enjoyable indeed for him to have a good sit-down after his game of football.”

Compton turned and looked first at his stool and then at Rouse.

“What is it you want, sir?” he inquired somewhat uncertainly.

“It’s a study,” said Rouse. “There’s no furniture in the place at all.”

“Study?” repeated the patient fellow. “But ain’t there a table and a couple of chairs in it? Surely——” He began to fondle his chin. “Why, every study has a table and a couple of chairs.”

“I expect this one did have a long time ago,” said Rouse, “but if so they must have died in infancy.”

“They may have been stole.”

Rouse considered this point with care.

“Of course,” said he at last, “it’s only a hole in the attic that I’m talking about. It may not be on your list of studies at all. To the naked eye 45it looks more like a family vault in some cheap cemetery.”

Compton produced a pipe, filled it, and struck a match; then he made his confession.

“Well, I can give you a table and a couple of chairs. As a matter o’ fac’ I’ve got some spare, and I’ve been wondering for a long time which study they belongs to. Over and over again I’ve reckoned up all the studies, on the fingers of my ’ands, and then all the tables and chairs, and they never come right. There was always a set over.”

Rouse’s face cleared instantly. He held out his hand.

“I warmly congratulate you, Compton,” said he. “Let me pilot you to the place forthwith. You had better bring some sandwiches and a bottle of beer with you, as it’s rather a distance and you might be glad of some light refreshment half way.”

He paused as they were about to leave and cast one last look round the little room.

“Compton,” said he, “would it be too much to ask whether you could lend Master Hope your little stove for the afternoon? To-morrow everything will be in full swing and he will be serving a cut from the joint with two vegetables from his own fireplace practically without cessation all day. But we must give the organisation time to settle down. We should not like you to have to hump along a sack of coal to-day, for example. But we should very much like to have a cup of tea with Hope in his sanctum, and as a matter of fact a few friends are visiting him.”

Compton cast a glance over his shoulder.

“I’ll give him a bit of coal,” said he. “If it’s a little place in the attic he’s going into he’ll want a bit of a fire in there to dry the place up and vent’late it a bit.”

“It would, I am sure, be enough,” said Rouse, 46“if you could only give him a bit of red carpet to warm his cold feet on.”

When at last they all met again, the expression on the face of each made an interesting study. Henry Hope was characteristically grave, and he stood with his crony watching Rouse with the eyes of a faithful dog. Terence was last to return, and he wore the expression of one who has some secret joy, whilst Rouse himself, who had been working exceedingly hard, looked hot and untidy. Nevertheless, his eyes were shining with the light of intense self-satisfaction. It was clear that he was itching to deliver himself of a few well-chosen words such as might indicate to his listeners the peculiar ingenuity of those things which he had achieved. In matters that concerned Henry Rouse was not a prefect at all; he was just an old friend. Henry Hope had more than once saved Rouse’s skin, and in spite of his great place in the school Rouse did not forget these little things. He welcomed Terence with an excited gesture, and then clapped a hand on his shoulder and peered tensely into his face.

“You’ve hardly changed at all,” said he. “The same old crooked eyes, the same solitary tooth projecting over your underlip, the same old passion socks! It seems scarcely any time since you went a-way-ee, and yet ... what do you notice in me? A suspicion of grey in the hair?”

“A suspicion of egg on the mouth, if anything.”

Rouse was a trifle taken aback.

“What’s the matter anyway?” asked Terence.

“You’ve been gone such a deuce of a long time. That’s the matter. And never so much as a line to your own folk to let them know how you were getting on. Even now you’ve brought nothing.”

“Yes, I have brought along a friend.”

“A friend?” repeated the other scornfully. 47“What’s he going to sit on, pray?” He waited a moment, then reached out and tapped Terence upon the chest. “You see in me,” he opined, “one whose ingenuity is unsurpassed throughout the length and breadth of four continents, and it is very fortunate indeed for you that your friend Rouse is such a highbrow. Whilst you have been away I have set the whole thing right. Compton and I have just this moment completed the work. What was a short time ago a kind of expanded egg-box is now a comfortably furnished apartment. True, Henry will have to crawl in on his hands and knees to avoid braining himself on the ceiling, but what of that? It merely prevents surprise visits from beaks. And the main idea is to secure comfort when once he’s in. This I have done. Henry Hope did not appeal in vain. Compton has provided him with a complete suite of furniture—to wit, half a brace of table and a brace of chairs. The walls are now placarded with photographs of people found drowned—cuttings from old Daily Mirrors. We have propped up the ceiling with a baulk of timber and we have kindled a fire. We have put the fellow in the red fez who was picking hops right out of his misery, and we have drained off some of the pools of water that you noticed on the floor and put pieces of sacking in their place. As soon as he likes he can move in.” He paused as if for congratulation.

“There’s one thing I’d like to say,” observed his friend, “only one thing, and I think you ought to be told at once.”


“That place,” said Terence severely, “is not his study at all.”

Rouse peered at him like a man who has received a severe punch below the belt.

“You were so insistent about it that I imagined for once you knew what you were talking about. 48But no. Whenever you do anything which at first sight seems clever there’s always a catch in it somewhere. As a matter of fact, Henry’s study is No. 8, and it’s on the first floor. It’s the one Masham and Loates had last term, and it’s as cosy as any place in the house.”

“Here,” said Rouse, passing a hand through his hair. “Look here, what do you mean? That list said No. 18, and No. 17, which is along there, is the last number. Isn’t this the only place like a study that’s anywhere near it?”

“The list,” retorted Terence firmly, “said No. 8. It was you that told Henry it was No. 18.”

There was a silence.

At last Rouse made a passionate gesture.

“You mean to say, then,” said he, “that all my foresight and resource, all my ingenuity, all my travail, are without value of any kind? Do all my plans leave you cold? Are you suggesting that all the timber that I have scouted out should now merely be sold to defray expenses?”

He stopped and eyed the others wrathfully.

“You meant well,” confessed Terence—“you always do—but if I were you I should say no more about it. Compton may be rather annoyed when he finds all his trouble was due to a howling bloomer.”

He beckoned gravely, turned, and began to move down the corridor followed by his train.

At last Rouse spoke.

“Tell me,” said he, “who is your friend—the friend you so very kindly brought? I should like to kick somebody, and it might as well be him.”

“It’s the kid called Carr,” said Terence over his shoulder. “He seems rather a decent kid, so I told him to come along and be introduced to Henry and eat some cake in his new study. He waits within.”

“Waits within?” repeated Rouse. “If he takes 49my advice he’ll wait without. It’ll get him used to the idea that he’ll have to go without.”

“As a matter of fact he’s minding the kettle.”

“Kettle, indeed? Is there going to be a dish of tea then?”

“Yes, of course there is. I’ve been getting it ready.”

“You’ve fixed up a sort of christening breakfast, have you?”

He nodded his head thoughtfully. It occurred to him that in his quiet way Terence generally did fix up things.

He grunted.

“H’m,” said he. “Most ingenious of you. I’m sure Henry Hope is indeed lucky in his friends.”

Terence smiled modestly and opened the door of No. 8, whereupon Rouse walked in and looked round with a contemptuous sniff.

“This,” said he, “looks like a prison cell. It’ll make Henry feel absolutely homesick.”


“Certainly. That little den upstairs was a veritable home from home.”

“Why, dash it all, man, you said it was——”

“Never mind what I said,” retorted Rouse. “I’d grown to love that place.”

Terence burst out laughing.

At last Rouse smiled.

“Well, well, I suppose he may as well abide here as abide there. The great thing was to ensure that Henry was not being wronged in any way. Everything is now to the good, thanks to myself. Hullo, Carr, how are you? Hold out your fist, and that tall, well-set-up young fellow with the opera-glasses stuck on his face will slap a piece of cake into it. That is Henry Hope. Shake him heartily by the hand. He is one of the phenomena of Harley. People come miles to see what he carries behind those 50spectacles of his. You will grow to love Henry.... Who are you going to fag for?”

The little boy looked up.

“I don’t know yet,” said he. “There was some mix-up over the studies and things.”

“I can tell you,” put in Terence. “I saw the list half-an-hour ago. You’re going to fag for Coles.”

At first the effect that this news had upon Bobbie Carr passed unnoticed. The others were too busy dissecting cake to wonder why he made no answer at all. But at last Terence looked up and saw that he was sitting stiffly on his chair and staring at him.

“Is that right?” said he at last, and his voice sounded very small.

“That’s right,” said Terence. “Yes. Do you know Coles?”

For a moment he did not answer. Wild thoughts were scurrying across his mind. He was suddenly very afraid. He did not want them to know that he knew Coles at all, and yet——

“Rather bad luck,” said Rouse, talking with his mouth full. “Coles isn’t a man I’d care to fag for.”

“Anyway,” said Terence, turning and speaking under his breath, “it’ll show what he’s made of. We’ll see how he tackles it. If we find Coles is giving him too thick a time we’ll get him swopped with somebody else.”

“Yes,” said Rouse, “and also hit Coles sharply in the eye, a practice I delight in.”

He turned.

A knock had come upon the door, and it was swinging with stately dignity upon its hinges. In turn each boy rose to his feet and looked towards it suspiciously. Slowly, and at last, Toby Nicholson appeared upon the threshold. He looked round the assembled company with an air of relief. Next he saw Bobbie Carr, and wondered why he was sitting 51so oddly still and looking so scared. Then his wandering eyes discovered Rouse and settled upon him gravely. Lastly he moved forward.

“Have you seen the new Head? He hasn’t been in here, has he?”

Terence shook his head, but Rouse took a pace forward and slapped his thigh several times with the palm of his hand.

“Now that you remind me of it, sir,” said he delightedly, “I certainly have seen him—and in this house.” He turned to Terence. “In the stress of events,” said he, “I quite forgot to tell you. It was whilst I was carrying the table upstairs for Henry, and my only regret now is that I was not at the time balancing it upon my chin. What happened was this: Compton was following behind with his chairs, and to cheer him upon his way we were singing a sort of part-song together. In reality he was mumbling a ditty and I was singing seconds in a loud clear voice that was fairly making the rafters ring. I had the table in front of my face and naturally I couldn’t see where I was going, but just as I got to the landing the door of Mr Morley’s room opened and a man came out like a shot from a gun—just as if somebody’s boot was behind him. Intent upon my task I went blithely on, and I hit that man immediately in the waistcoat good and hard with the leg of the table. If he was coming to tell me about my singing it must have hurt his sense of pride very considerably, also his sense of pain.” Rouse paused. “I thought—you see,” he explained, “I couldn’t see him properly—and I thought—it was the man who comes to wind up the clocks. So I didn’t apologise. He could see where he was going and I couldn’t. I thought, ‘Let him apologise. It’s up to him to speak first. Why didn’t he look where he was going?’ As a matter of fact he was leaning weakly against the wall, with one hand against his waistcoat 52and the other against his forehead, watching me stagger by. I took absolutely no notice at all. In point of fact I went by whistling. When I had gone right past Compton slipped up beside me and said: ‘I say, sir, that man you ’it—that man was the new Headmaster. ’E’s lookin’ still, sir.’ I turned round to see. It was quite true. His eyes were like balls of fire.”

Terence smiled thoughtfully.

“He must have felt rather annoyed.”

“If I hit him as hard as I think I did,” said Rouse, “he must have felt like a deceased relative.”

Toby moved forward, then he sat down wretchedly on the edge of the table.

“Look here, shipmate,” said he, “do you mean to say that he found you singing a part-song with the house porter, and that thereupon you hit him in the ribs with the leg of a table?”

“The honest truth,” admitted Rouse cheerfully, and passed a moistened finger solemnly across his throat. “I must have looked like a sweep too ... hair all tousled ... thick, rich soil all over my hands.... I’d been digging about in Compton’s store, you see, raking out furniture and things for our Henry’s study.”

Toby looked at him forlornly.

“Well, the new Headmaster,” said he, “came over here entirely to see how you lived when nobody was looking, and if that’s how he found things you’ve just about put the lid on it.”

Rouse looked pained.

“Why, sir?”

“Because,” said Toby, coming up beside him and speaking quietly, “he’s decided you’re not a suitable chap to be captain of Rugby football.”

The words had the instantaneous effect that Toby knew they would have. Rouse the clown became abruptly a grown man. He tightened in every 53muscle until at last he seemed rigid. Then he looked Toby in the eyes with quick sincerity.

“What do you mean, sir?” he said. “What does he——”

Toby laid a hand upon his shoulder.

“I met him outside just now,” said he. “I knew something was wrong. He was white with rage. He could hardly speak. But he says you’re to have the push—that’s all.”

There was absolute silence. With lovable tact, Henry Hope had taken the two boys with him out of the room as soon as he saw that Toby had something private to say. Terence stood against the mantelpiece and stared first at one and then at the other, and Rouse just stood before Toby and looked and looked and looked till he could see nothing at all but a foolish house of cards that had only come into being in the morning, and that now, at the end of the day, lay in a tumbled litter before his eyes.



The first significance of it all steadied Rouse in precisely one second, but for the reality of it to make its real impression needed time, and in the silence that followed the truth began to tell upon him.

In the whole history of Harley a Rugger captain elected by the school had never been turned down by the Headmaster. It would be a lasting disgrace. In some way that he did not yet understand he had let down the school. Moreover Rouse had an ideal, and the ideal was not only to be a great fullback, but to be, in the immediate future, a captain worthy to lead the team that Harley was going to have this year. To be told that he was not fit to captain any kind of team at all was no less surprising than having a bottle broken over his head. If it were true, then he might just as well be expelled.

He found himself wondering whether, if this came to pass, fellows would think he were just such another as Slade, who had been captain of cricket when he himself was a junior and whom the Grey Man had sacked. At least Slade had had a chance. To be judged in three days by a man who had never seen him before in his life did not give him a dog’s chance. It seemed pretty incredible that any fellow could be condemned like that, but that the fellow in question should be himself was very nearly unthinkable.

To Toby it was not unthinkable. If he had judged 55Dr Roe aright the new Head was a man whose first opinion was his last, and who, rather than have to confess himself in the wrong, would stick to a bad judgment against all argument, upholding it through thick and thin to the end. It was clear that he believed in impressing those under him with swift and irrevocable decisions, thereby instilling into them discipline of a kind that made those who had to be judged by him afraid to take their chance, and which consequently kept them on good behaviour.

There was another reason, too, why he would be a very difficult man to quarrel with. He was new to the school, and he was the type of man who would always be able to defeat those who really loved Harley by making the whole school and the school’s good reputation suffer for the misdeeds of any one individual. Something of this foreboding must have shown in Toby’s face, and Rouse saw it. At last he spoke.

“What is it that’s gone wrong, sir?” said he. “Does he really think I’d be a dud as a captain—or is it that he just takes me for a general waster? What is it makes him think it, any way? Surely it’s not just because I bumped into him with a table?... I would have apologised, as a matter of fact, only as I say I thought it was the man who comes to wind up the clocks, and he’s such a disagreeable old bogey that I didn’t trouble.... He ought to have looked where he was going. A man’s got no right to shoot out of the wall just as you’re going by with furniture.”

“It isn’t that at all,” said Toby. “That’s only an additional proof, to his mind, that what he thinks of you is right. There’s some yarn about a ticket in the train. You didn’t tear up a new boy’s ticket, did you?”

Rouse considered a moment.

“Ticket?” said he at last. “Why, yes, I tore 56up one. What about it? It wasn’t the right one.”

He began to explain.

“Anyway,” said Toby, “it seems that it was the same fellow who laughed such a lot at the footer game—the fat boy we pulled out to play. And the Head’s idea is that throughout that game he was terrified of you because you’re a proper bully.”

“But that’s all rot,” said Terence sharply. “Why, that fellow can weep like an ornamental fountain. He nearly broke his heart in the first place because his pater went off with the wrong ticket, and then Rouse had the notion that the best thing to do was to tear up the one to Ealing that he’d been left with so that the people this end wouldn’t know what station it was for. Of course it went wrong. Rouse’s ideas always do. The ticket was a different colour from the one for Harley. But he only did it to help the little ass. Rouse had better go to the Head and tell him.”

“I’ll go and tell him myself,” said Toby, “as soon as I’ve got hold of the details. The trouble is that Rouse has been extraordinarily prominent during a space of twenty-four hours and the new Head is a man who makes up his mind at top speed. But it isn’t only that. Rouse’s manner doesn’t appeal to him either. He wants the captain of Rugger to be one of the senior boys of the school, and he rather suspects that the reason Rouse isn’t in the Sixth yet is that he’s a real bad lad. Nor does he like football conducted by a fellow whose right line is comic opera. There’s another thing. He’s coming round to visit Rouse in form to-morrow with the idea of finding out how much he really knows, and,” he added, turning to Rouse, “I recommend you to sit up and swot to-night till your eyes stand out from your head like railway buffers, 57because it’s just possible that if you can tell him all he wants to know he’ll be persuaded to move you into the Sixth, which would do away with one of his grumbles anyway.”

Rouse looked up wretchedly.

“That’s hopeless, sir. I’ll work with a wet towel round my nut all the term, and I’ll honestly try to swell out my forehead and push in amongst the highbrows and old Terence here, but to expect me to be able to do it in one night is out of all reason.”

He stopped and began to look grimly out of the window. At last he pulled himself together with a jerk and moved towards Terence.

“Does this really mean I’m not going to be captain of Rugger after all? Do you think it means that?”

If his face had been cruelly disfigured he could not have been more obviously hard hit. He knew as well as any man that when this news became public property he would have to pretend not to care—especially before the Rugger Committee. It would be no use behaving like a baby about it. But at the moment he was alone with those who knew him best, and so he was not ashamed to show the innermost recesses of his soul, and it would to an onlooker have seemed impossible to recognise in him the exuberant humorist of an hour ago.

“You come along to the study,” said Terence, taking his arm. “Come on, Toby. We’ll go and thrash this thing out. If he’s not going to let our best Rugger man be captain of the fifteen he’ll have a good-sized crowd heaving bricks at his study window in about a couple of hours, and I shall be amongst the number, with my coat off.”

They moved out of the study and went slowly and soberly along the corridor, arm-in-arm, towards Terence’s own room. And, behind them, with hands in his pockets and a troubled brow, came the man who was typical of Harley’s best. In the little 58room, which was cosy with an arm-chair and curtains, they sat down and faced each other across the table.

Toby came in and stood by the fireplace.

Presently Terence leaned forward and indicated Rouse affectionately with his forefinger.

“It’s bound to be all right. If he says that any particular man is not to be captain of footer——”

“He has said it,” interrupted Toby. “The IF has ceased to count. He stopped me outside the house and said it as definitely as any man could. He said: ‘I refuse to sanction the school team being led by a boy like that. You will arrange immediately for a new election, and you will give all those concerned clearly to understand that the boy who is chosen is to be a senior prefect of the Sixth Form.’ It was no use arguing. I’d nothing to go on except the same arguments as I’d used already. Now that I know I’ll go round and have it out with him, but if you ask me for the honest truth—and you’re both fellows who can stand it—I don’t believe for a moment that he’ll alter his mind. He’s come here with what he believes to be a reputation, and he’s not going to start by admitting he’s made a fool of himself. Besides, he’s Headmaster. If he and I were on equal footing I’d go there with the fixed idea of not coming away again till he’d given in; but he’s the Head, and if I let myself say too much I shall be politely told to push off and get a job taking tickets at a peep-show, which at the moment I don’t intend to do. Now that this has cropped up I mean to see it through to the finish. There are breakers ahead, and if we don’t look out the school footer’s going to suffer pretty severely. A lean year takes a long time to wipe out. It means not only getting licked every week; it means that the school colts aren’t being properly brought up, and that means other lean years to come.”

59“Couldn’t we write to the Grey Man?” suggested Terence.

“The Grey Man’s ill. And he hasn’t got any say in it now, anyway. This man’s Headmaster now. All the Grey Man could do would be to give Rouse a thundering good character, and this fellow would simply light his pipe with it.”

Rouse jumped up with sudden passion and threw out his arms.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t take it in. I’ve lived for this one thing all the while I’ve been at school. To be captain of Rugger at Harley has seemed the greatest thing a fellow like me could wish for. I’m not clever. I’ve got brains that slop about in my head like sodden tea-leaves. The only thing I can do is play football. Not only that though. There’s some sort of third-rate talent in me that’s a gift for organisation, I think. As soon as I knew I was going to be skipper I began to plan footer for every kind of fellow in the school. While I’ve been talking of other things, all the time I’m fooling about, I’m really thinking out house Rugger, and games for colts, and the kind of training I’ll give the First Fifteen. I’m brim full of it. This man doesn’t understand. We must give him time.”

Terence watched him sympathetically.

“It’s all right. The school won’t let him do a thing like that. There’ll be a rebellion.”

“That’s just it,” put in Toby thoughtfully. “It’s something of that sort I’m afraid of. If it comes to a fight, what’s going to happen to school footer? We play Greyminster on Saturday week. The team’s got to be chosen and practised. If we haven’t a captain what’s to be done? Is the match to be scratched—and if so, how many others will go the same way? Is it simply going to be an empty season right through the term?”

“You needn’t worry about that,” answered Rouse, 60with sudden steadiness. “If it comes to it, I’ll chuck in. Smythe can be captain. He’s the same year as I am and he’s secretary as it is.”

“Smythe is bottom of the Sixth,” answered Terence. “He can’t even add up.”

“All right, then, there’s you,” retorted Rouse. “You’ve got plenty of brains. You’re a prefect. We’ll make you captain.”

Terence turned on him.

“If you think I’m going to take on a job that they think is too good for you” he snapped, “you’re a bigger ass than I take you for. What on earth are you talking about?”

Toby turned at last to Rouse.

“I don’t often compliment you,” he observed. “At one time I used to cuff your head whenever I could reach it, but I’ll tell you now that even you yourself don’t quite realise what they think of you here. You’re a little tin god. The team will follow you as they’d follow no other fellow I know. They don’t want anyone else, and it’s my idea they won’t have anyone else. The captain of footer has to be elected. That’s constitutional. They’ve elected you. And if the Head doesn’t approve it’s quite possible for the school to try passive resistance.”


“What I think is,” said Toby, “that he can search right through the whole school and he won’t find another fellow anywhere who’ll take it on—not under these circumstances.”

“Then he’ll have to give in.”

“He’ll never give in ... he’s the type that never knows where to draw the line ... and he thinks he’s strong. He’ll make himself a dictator. He’ll find some unsuspecting dolt and order him to be captain.”

“Then there’ll be a rebellion,” said Terence again. “The school won’t stand it. They absolutely idolise Rouse.”

61Toby spread his hands.

“Think it over,” said he. “Reason it out. I’m going. If he comes to ask you comic questions in form to-morrow morning just keep your head and don’t give anything away. I shan’t see him again to-night. He’s in a bad temper. I’ll wait till after morning school to-morrow. Then I’ll join issue with him after he’s visited your form. And above all,” he added finally, “don’t be downhearted. This turn of events is as bad as it possibly could be, but you aren’t alone. You’re no end of a dunce, Rouse, but you’ve got the school behind you, and there’s comfort in that.”

They watched him go, and when they were left alone Rouse turned to Terence and smiled whimsically.

“Nick, old bird,” said he, “I feel as sick and sorry as a lame dog—but there’s something in me that won’t lie down. It keeps on shoving up from under my spirits like bubbly under a cork. And if that old buffer comes and asks me in the morning how many beans make five, it’s a hundred to one I shall make the stupid response: ‘The answer is a lemon.’ I just shan’t be able to help myself.”



In the days of his early youth Henry Hope had appeared to those about him to be an old, old man dressed in an Eton suit. His large rimmed spectacles had lent him the air of a scholastic genius, and he was, by habit, pitifully pedantic. In addition he was dignified, and self-reliant to a fault, and he had no ability of any kind at games. But at least his heart was in the right place. More than once his meditative resource had helped Terence and Rouse out of a sad scrape, and accordingly he was their beloved friend.

In the course of the last few years he had been growing up—lengthways, that is to say—and Henry Hope had changed a little from the Henry Hope of old. In the atmosphere of Harley he had grown rather less of a hermit and rather more of a boy. He had opened out. He was still totally devoid of a sense of humour, and he still used grave words both in season and out, but he had become, in one sense at least, human. He was a devotee of the cinema. Also he had decided what he was going to be. He was going to be an actor in film plays. He knew one such actor already, and it seemed to him that this would provide him with an effective introduction into the right clique when the time came. Toby Nicholson was the actor. At one period of his life Toby had turned an honest penny by risking his life before the camera on selected days, and though this was, for obvious reasons, not the line of business in 63which Henry proposed to make his mark, it was at all events good to feel that he was not totally unacquainted with the way things were done.

Henry, as a matter of fact, was going to be one of those men to whom the ideal way of getting into a room is by way of the skylight, and the ideal way of getting out is through the window (though not, of course, by being pushed through).

It was conceivable that on occasion Henry might consent to act the part of a detective. Generally speaking, however, he would be the man who delays the play all the way through by persistently getting into predicaments through sheer stupidity merely for the sake of showing how to get out of them again.

He would be a man of rapid movement; he would look always to right and left before moving to his front; he would look all round a room before observing a prostrate body at his feet; he would invariably get his eye caught on a keyhole before entering a room. He would point out the way to a friend less keen of vision than he before walking down a long straight road; and at times he would be seen swaying against a wall with half-closed eyes whilst those who had stolen his all made their escape in their own time through an old-world garden, stopping to pick flowers as they went.

Above all there would be one dramatic performance which would constitute his star part. It would consist in a series of scenes turned rapidly upon the reel, each displaying a long wide road, and down these ways Henry would be featured running as never man ran before. His arms would be going like pistons. He would have lost his hat. (This, however, he would find again in time to doff it as indicating that somebody was dead.) Ever and again he would appear to be exhausted. To the lay mind it would seem impossible for any living man to maintain such a consistent speed down all those 64different roads. Nevertheless Henry would do it. He would do it on different days, of course, but that would not be realised; and he would, moreover, be running to save a soul. This would be known to the audience, who would cheer his attractive likeness every time it appeared at the far end of another road. He conceived that the energy with which he would run would immediately lift him into the front rank of famous players. He had once had a nightmare in which he had slipped up and fallen on the back of his neck whilst at the top of his speed, thus leading the audience to suppose that his performance was a comic one ... and once he had dreamt that owing to a slight stitch he had not been able to run up to form and had arrived twenty-five minutes too late to effect the rescue, for which he had been kicked by the man who had been turning the film all the time in expectation of his arrival; but he had never mentioned these incidents to anyone at all.

He practised a good deal, and it may almost be said that throughout the period covered by this tale he lived under the perpetual hallucination that all his movements were recorded by a camera for reproduction before a gaping audience.

He was under this impression when he shepherded Bobbie Carr and his own close friend, Hallowell, out of the new study. He made the movement a masterpiece of play without words, and when they were safely out of earshot in the corridor he drew himself up with a touch of characteristic dignity and spoke his only sentence. He did not believe in speaking any more than was really necessary at these times—no more, in fact, than it would be necessary for a film to speak, and always in the same crisp manner in which the film habitually does speak.

His voice was deep down in his boots.

“Something amiss,” said he. Then he was done.

As a matter of fact even this was not essential. 65If, after all his painstaking by-play, those present had still not tumbled to the fact that something was amiss, nothing would have ever made them understand. In reality they had both understood long ago and were now only hanging about in case there was any more of Henry’s performance to come, which, by going, they would miss.

Henry, however, had finished for the moment, so Bobbie Carr sighed and turned away.

“I’d better go and find Coles,” said he.

Hallowell looked at him.

“It’s a pity you’ve got to fag for Coles. Still, it may not be for long. How old are you—about fifteen, aren’t you? You’ll soon be done with fagging.”

There was silence for a moment. Carr could still not make up his mind whether to admit that he knew quite a lot about Coles already, and whilst he waited, half turning away, Henry drew near. He had had a rough term of fagging himself when he had first entered Harley, and he guessed what Carr must feel like with so many expressions of bad will towards Coles coming to his notice in such a short space of time. He reached out a hand and tapped the boy kindly on the shoulder, then he peered at him with an old-fashioned sincerity over the tops of his glasses and spoke in a slow and sepulchral tone.

“He’s in the First Fifteen,” said he. “But with us he cuts no ice.” He paused and nodded his head impressively. “Say, kid,” he added, “we’re wise to that guy.”

Such words if spoken in church by a venerable bishop would, one supposes, sound odd. Spoken by Henry they sounded more than odd. They sounded rotten. Trying to speak American slang was about the most inept thing Henry did. The result was not only incongruous, it went absolutely 66flat. Without having heard him it would be impossible to imagine how dull those crisp words really sounded. He did not even speak them through his nose. It was awful.

Nevertheless Bobbie Carr was comforted. There was something in Henry that inspired trust. There always had been. And in that moment Bobbie Carr decided that he liked him very much.

“I’ll come along with you,” said Henry. “I know something about Coles and I can put you up to some of his habits. It may be a help to you. He may not be in just now, and if he doesn’t want you we can go and have another look at our new study before it’s too late.”

“I’ll clear off then,” said Hallowell. “I’ve not done my prep. properly yet. See you later.”

He offered them a cheery gesture of farewell, to which Henry, for his part, responded by looking at him gravely over the tops of his spectacles as if he were some form of peculiar insect.

Then he set off with Bobbie Carr, and as he went he spoke in a deep, gruff voice of Coles and the kind of things he did.

“Any time you find yourself up against him,” said he, “you come and tell me. Don’t you go doing half the things he’ll want you to. He goes in for betting, and he smokes and drinks and borrows money. He’ll want you to fall in with his ideas and help him out of holes. Don’t you do it. I notice Coles a good deal. I see without being seen. That’s rather a gift I have got. And if I find that you’re afraid to refuse the things he asks you to do I shall be disappointed in you, and then perhaps when you really want my help one day I shan’t be inclined to give it. You come to me. I can’t punch his head myself but I’m friendly with some who can. In fact one of my best chums here is the captain of Rugby football.” He wound up on a note of distinct 67self-congratulation. “Here,” he added, “this is his place. You knock on his door and go in. Explain who you are and see if he wants to speak to you. I’ll wait out here.”

Bobbie went to the door and knocked. He was a lithe youngster, and even Henry could not help noticing the easy grace of his movements. For a moment he stood there listening. There was no answer. He knocked again.

“Go in,” said Henry solemnly. “He isn’t there.”

Bobbie opened the door and looked inside. It was perfectly true. The room was empty. Henry moved from his position against the wall and came up behind him.

“While there’s nobody here, then,” said he, “I’ll show you where he keeps his things. Maddock used to have this study and I was Maddock’s fag. The teapot’s in that cupboard there. This is where he puts anything he’s got to eat, and I expect his footer kit’s in that box.”

The door was suddenly kicked sideways and a heavy step sounded behind him.

“Now then,” said Coles. “What are you doing in my study? What do you mean by crawling in here? Are you looking for something to pinch?”

Henry turned and glared at him with concentrated fury. Coles took him by the collar.

“You get out,” said he.

Then he lifted a leg and planted a boot so severely behind Henry that he shot foolishly forward and cannoned into the door. He turned and seemed about to speak. Coles gave him no opportunity at all. He lifted his foot again, and this time the force of its drive sent Henry clean out of the room with one bounce and dropped him against the wall on the far side of the corridor. Coles was one of the best dropkicks in the school. Then he slammed the door and turned upon Carr.

68And the thing that troubled Henry most was not the pain or the suddenness of those blows behind him, but the particularly stupid way in which he had made his exit from the stage.

Coles stared at Carr for a few moments thoughtfully, then he moved to his chair and, sitting down, planted his feet upon the table.

“Well?” said he. “I suppose you’ve come to report?”

“I thought I’d see if you wanted anything.”

“There is something I don’t want,” said Coles, “and that’s your friends. I take a pride in my fag. I never expect to have to call for you twice, and when I do call for you I don’t want all the riff-raff of the school trotting in behind you like the tail of a crocodile. If you’re palling up with that fellow Hope you’d better drop him. He makes me feel ill. Whenever I see that fellow I want to stamp him into the carpet, and if I see you about together it’ll make me angry with you, and then you won’t be happy.”

Carr said nothing at all. He just looked at him straightly.

“Do you know,” asked Coles, “why you’ve been made my fag?”

“No,” said Bobbie.

“It’s because I asked for you. And do you know why I asked for you?”


“It’s because I’m said to be rather a difficult man to fag for. Young fellows like you get a bit tired of me. I want a good deal done and I expect my fag to be absolutely trustworthy. If I tell you a thing in confidence and I find you split, I simply hit you on the top of the head with a book, and your head sings for twenty-four hours. I’ve an idea, though, that I shan’t need to hit you much. That’s why I managed to get you allotted to me. I think you’ll quite like to fag for me—you’ll know that if ever you get to 69know a secret of mine I’ve got a secret of yours, and that’ll keep you quiet, won’t it?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you’re ashamed of your father, aren’t you?”

“Ashamed of him?” said Bobbie hotly. “No, I’m not.”

“But you say that you don’t want anyone here to know how he makes his living.”

“I promised I wouldn’t say, that’s all. There’s a reason.”

“Precisely,” answered Coles. “And I’m the only one that knows.” He made an expressive gesture. “You see what I mean?”

“I suppose you mean you’ll tell.”

“I mean that that would be less trouble than hitting you on the head with a book and considerably more effective.”

Bobbie’s face was expressionless.

“That threat,” said Coles frankly, “starts from to-day. Now we understand one another.” He looked at the boy fixedly. “You can go,” said he. “You come in and see me to-morrow in the luncheon hour.”

“Well,” said Henry, when Bobbie bumped into him standing proudly round a corner of the corridor, “what did he say?”

Bobbie shrugged his shoulders.

“Nothing much. I’ve got to go and see him again to-morrow.”

Henry appeared to be deep in thought. At last he lifted his head and looked at Bobbie pertly over the tops of his spectacles.

“Did you notice him try to kick me?”

Bobbie’s behaviour was straightway that of a perfect gentleman. He glanced at Henry politely.

“Yes,” he answered. “He didn’t get you, did he?”

70An immediate change came over Henry. His lips slowly parted in ecstasy. He spoke no word. He looked at the new boy instead with the grateful light of intense relief shining from his eyes, and from that moment their friendship was finally cemented.



There had not even been a rumour what was wrong. The few who knew had kept their counsel absolutely. For this reason the Rugger meeting came as a mild shock to those gentlemen of high place in the school whose privilege it was to attend it. They were the same counsellors who formed the house committees, and for certain purposes they were on special occasions called together to debate some important matter. Their chief duty this term was, of course, the formal election of the school captain of football, and this had only just been carried out. Ordinarily after this their services were not required. Many of them expected to win their own colours, and it was obviously undesirable for them to sit on the small executive committee that would judge the merits of rivals. Matters pertaining to the First Fifteen, to honours generally, and to the organisation of training throughout the school rested, therefore, with a trio composed of the captain, the honorary secretary and the games master, and of these the captain himself was virtually dictator. That was the custom of the school.

House committees were formed on a different basis. Here one found merely the senior boys in each house, though as a matter of course many of these were also leading lights in school sport. They met together as a school committee on almost anything that needed to be discussed: in summer to talk cricket, in winter to plan the broad lines of 72the season’s football, and sometimes to debate such matters as the Christmas concert or the big cross-country run. To be called together for no apparent reason so soon after they had met came, therefore, as a surprise to them, and they filed into the big room and sat them down in silent dignity. They did not nudge each other or make play with their eyebrows to denote their wonder. They had mostly come to the age when it seems a great thing to pretend one knows something which the next man does not know, and only a man like Toby Nicholson, who knew the type peculiarly well, would have read their casual bearing aright. Their seeming indifference, the way some whistled softly to themselves, the general lack of any evidence of curiosity, denoted an undercurrent that meant sensation.

When they were ready Toby rose. He was not at all in love with his task. He was, if anything, a little nervous. He could not tell for a few moments how the school were going to take it.

“The day before yesterday,” said he, “you met to elect the captain of football. We have had to call you together again to-day to elect another one. I am sorry to say that the Headmaster does not approve of Rouse as your choice.”

There was no buzz. No one sprang to his feet. The silence was deadly. It was as clear as day that it was going to take them a few minutes to believe it.

Toby gave them those few minutes, and when he judged that it had thoroughly got home on them he spoke again.

“The Headmaster wished me to tell you,” he said, “that the captain of football must be a senior in the Sixth Form.”

He did not say more. There was really no need to tell them that he must also be a boy who wore the 73cloak of dignity—that one proviso limited their choice sufficiently.

“His particular wish is that, if practicable, the captain of football should be the captain of the school,” said Toby. Then he made a gesture of finality and sat down.

There came now a slight shuffling of feet. The counsellors were turning one to the other; there was hoarse whispering, occasional sharp sounds of absolute amazement.

At last the captain of the school rose in his seat. He did not play football at all. He made up verses that didn’t rhyme and secured good prizes for them. Nevertheless he was a good fellow, and it was clear that the news that he might be expected to lead the Fifteen on to the field in cap and gown had had a pronounced effect upon him. He was really quite shaken up.

“But does the Headmaster know the practice at this school, sir?”

“Oh yes,” said Toby. “He knows what it always has been ever since I can remember. I’ve done all that a man could do to persuade him to respect our unwritten laws. The Headmaster, however, is a man of very strong views. He is determined on a new method.”

“Well, I’m blowed,” said the captain of the school, and sat down with a jerk.

Next moment Rouse had half risen from his chair, and, in the awkward manner of a boy whose lifelong nightmare has always been that he might one day be called upon for a speech, turned towards the assembly.

“It’s quite true,” said he a little huskily. “I’ve been rather prominent in doing the very things the new Head hates most ever since he came, it seems. Mr Nicholson’s done his best to keep me—but it’s no use. I’m terribly sorry. It seems a sort of 74disgrace to the school. They’ll get to hear about this at other places—Rainhurst and Wilton—and they’ll guess I’m a general rotter and wonder why I haven’t been sacked. I——”

He stopped and seemed to be searching for the right words. Few of those present had ever heard Rouse speak in such grave tones before, and it did more than anything else to bring home the truth to them. There was a sympathetic silence.

“There’s nothing else to be said. I resign, of course. Pointon doesn’t play football. It’s useless to propose him. Perhaps, though, once the Head gets rid of me he may listen to reason more. I think that if you elect a fellow who is at least in the Sixth you might get his approval. So I propose Smythe.”

He slowly subsided into his chair. There came a growing murmur of angry distress. Suddenly people noticed that in the far corner of the room Smythe was already upon his feet.

“There’s no need to waste time considering that at all,” he said, with considerable vexation. “At the other meeting some misguided ass got up on his hind legs and proposed me. I said then that whilst Rouse was at the school there could be no other skipper worth considering at all, and you all cheered. I say that again now. If Rouse isn’t good enough for this job you can put me down as not playing Rugger at all, let alone being captain of it. I was the first to congratulate Rouse the other day, and I’m the first now to propose that we refuse to accept his resignation.”

His lips had spoken the words that had been on the tip of every other fellow’s tongue. None other could have so aptly expressed their feelings.

There was a chorus of vehement approval. In the fierce clapping and the clatter of feet on the floor Rouse had a quick insight into the depth of their inexplicable affection for him. He was honestly 75astounded. He was also considerably upset. He could not face saying any more. He just sat where he was and pretended to be taking no notice, but his acting was not very good. For one thing, his face was brick-red.

At last Toby rose stolidly to his feet. He began to hate his position more and more. He was very human and he was heart and soul with them in their feelings. It was the hardest thing of all to make of himself counsel for the defence, and the long and the short of it was that he could not do it. If he managed to get through this meeting without a vote of detestation being passed upon Dr Roe it would to his mind be a notable achievement. He was conscious that as a master he had a certain disciplinary responsibility, but he was very unhappy about it. There was too much of the old boy in Toby.

He looked round them sadly. At last he spoke.

“It’s a very bad business,” said he. “I think as you do—that Rouse couldn’t be bettered for this job.... The only other point to consider is how the school will be affected if you refuse to accept his resignation. The Head will not give in to you. If it comes to a fight he has every advantage. It may mean that you ruin our fixture list for the season.... It will certainly draw attention to an incident that we might otherwise keep fairly quiet so as to prevent the wrong construction being put upon it. If we’re to have a good season it’s essential to get started at once. The team for next Saturday ought to be chosen to-day so as to start practice. If you decide against the Head you may cause delay that we shall never be able to make up.”

“Well, we’re not going to give up Rouse, sir,” cried someone in sheer indignation.

Toby turned to him.

“That isn’t the point,” he said. “I’m absolutely with you. I believe that without Rouse to lead the 76Fifteen we shan’t have a real good season. But we mustn’t make it too hard for the man who sooner or later may have to take it on. I’ve talked to the Head till I couldn’t talk any more. It made no shadow of difference at all. The Head will never give in. His mind’s made up, and although it’s true that we oughtn’t to give up Rouse, I shouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t make you see both sides of the picture. It’s for you to decide; I’m only just telling you how matters stand in case you forget.”

He sat down wretchedly.

Next moment Rouse turned to them again. He did not get up. There was something too urgent about the atmosphere for much formality.

“It’s quite right,” said he. “You mustn’t muck up the season. I’ve resigned. That’s all there is to it. Go on. Don’t be boobs. I propose Nicholson. The Head can’t refuse him. He’s one of the top six in the school.”

All heads turned slowly to regard Terence as if half in doubt and half in hope. Terence stiffened like a man electrocuted and shot to his feet.

“No!” he shouted. “It’s all rot! Rouse has got to be captain. He was made for it. It’s no use going on proposing other people. We’ve elected Rouse.”

There was an appreciative silence, then an animated discussion, and amidst it a young man rose from his seat and lifted his hand for silence.

“There’s only one other old colour who’s in the Sixth,” said he. “Coles. So I’ll propose him.”

He sat down as if he had done a piece of useful work by thoroughly clearing the decks for real debate. What followed, therefore, came as a very painful surprise to him. Others were merely disgusted. He was honestly hurt. To suppose that he had spoken seriously was the most insulting thought anyone could have had of him.

77Coles had arisen and could be seen looking earnestly upon them. His voice was unmistakably clear though he spoke quietly, and he made one modest gesture with his hand. He had not so much as waited to see the result of the proposal, had not given anyone even a chance to second it.

“If it’s for the good of the school,” said he, “of course I’ll do my best.... It’s just as you like. Whatever seems right to you fellows....” There was a cutting silence; not so much as a movement helped him. He remained standing. He looked round hopefully. “Whatever Mr Nicholson thinks best,” said he. “If you propose me—I’ll certainly——”

At last somebody spoke. It was difficult to identify the gentleman, but from the murmur of approval that followed it was clear that he voiced the opinion of all those present.

The voice said: “Sit down, you ass.”

With a sudden flush of acute self-consciousness Coles disappeared from view.

Then there rose up one other spokesman.

It was the captain of the school. He brought a touch of dignity into the atmosphere that was not unwelcome.

“Well, I’ve listened to what’s been said,” he told them, “and it hasn’t taken me long to form my opinion. I’m no footer man—but I’ve got the interests of the school as much at heart as any of you. And I know Rouse. I’m no fighting man either. I like peace and quiet. Arguments I can’t bear. But I’m afraid a fight and an argument will have to come. The soundest proposal made has been Smythe’s. He says we refuse to accept Rouse’s resignation, and I think you’d like the Head to know that as captain of the school I second that.”

There was a pleasant and concerted cheer. He sat down with a slight flush. Then hand-clapping broke 78out. It grew loud and continuous. Next they began to shout. Some got on to their feet and waved in Rouse’s direction excitedly. The shouting grew into a thunderous ovation. Here and there earnest students like the captain of the school found themselves jumping foolishly on to forms and falling off again in the hopes of getting a really good view of Rouse. It grew louder and more emphatic. The very walls were trembling with enthusiasm. Rouse stood up and tried to stop them. They went on. It may be that they rather hoped the new Head would hear them and ask what it was all about. Toby made no effort to exercise control. As a matter of fact he was smiling. It seemed to him just as well to let them have it out. Eventually it began to die down a little. Fellows were forcing their way towards Rouse and thumping him on the back. Others were reaching for his hand. And above all they were still shouting his name delightedly aloud and making gestures of eternal allegiance to their chosen.

In the end it was Smythe who got a hearing first.

“It may be as well,” said he, “to decide on the form in which this decision ought to be communicated to the Head. What about a deputation?”

“The usual way,” said Toby cheerfully, “would be for me to go along and tell him.”

They looked at one another. The point was worth considering.

“There are some matters,” said Toby, “that might be better discussed in my absence, of course.” He paused. “If I were to go along and see the Head now you fellows might be talking it over between you, and then if a deputation should be necessary you’d know whom to select to form it.”

He waited a moment. There was the loud sound that indicated a crowd’s approval.

“Well, sir,” said the captain of the school, rising 79yet again, “that seems the best thing to do. Would you mind describing to the Headmaster the exact manner in which the proposal to refuse his resignation has been carried, and why it is so strongly supported? I think he ought to know that.”

“I think so myself,” said Toby. “I shall certainly tell him.”

He moved slowly down the room. There was a pleasant smile upon his face. It was as if a prophecy of his had come true.

The counsellors rose as he passed down their midst, and seeing how pleasantly he smiled they slowly answered, and one by one they smiled back at him as he went upon his errand.

The moment he had really gone they turned as one man to Rouse.

“But why is it?” they demanded. “What’s gone wrong? He’s only just come here. How on earth does he know who’s the best captain?”

Rouse shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s that idiotic little fat boy,” said Terence. “He’s the cause of all the trouble. He went and laid evidence against Rouse as a bully and the Head believes him, and then he came over to see how Rouse behaved in his natural haunts and Rouse was singing a part-song with the house porter. He smote the Head with the leg of a table, too—just to emphasise the fact.”

“What fat boy?” demanded Pointon. “Why haven’t they got hold of the fat boy then? Why don’t they bump him? Let’s go and fetch the fat boy and make him go to the Head and withdraw what he said.”

“It’s no use,” said Terence. “Toby went and tackled him himself and asked him whether he knew what he’d done. And eventually he said that he’d go to the Head and try to make it all right. So he did, the fool; and when the Head saw Toby again he 80said the little hero had been to him and asked that Rouse should not be punished in any way, because he was afraid that if he were fellows would blame him and call him a sneak. So the Head said it was clear that somebody had been getting at him, and demanded that Toby should find out who it was and bring him up before him. Toby said that the only chap who’d got at him was he himself, and explained the true story of what had happened; and he also said that another new kid called Carr was a witness, and that I was too. But the Head wouldn’t believe it. He said there was too much hanky-panky going on. He said that at Wilton he had the reputation of being an infallible judge of character and that he knew as well as he knew his own name that Rouse had been bullying the kid. As a matter of fact that was only one point. He was looking at the new-comers’ footer, and he says Rouse made a dead set for the same boy ... and then, of course, he came across to the house to see what Rouse did when he thought nobody was looking, and that’s how he found him.”

He made an expressive gesture and was silent.

“Look here,” said Pointon, “be more explanatory. What was the bullying? What have witnesses got to do with it?”

Terence explained.

“But, surely,” said Pointon, “when the Head knows the truth he can’t refuse to believe it.... That’s all bosh.”

“What Toby says,” pointed out Terence, “is that what we’ve got up against us now isn’t a charge against Rouse that’s got to be disproved at all. It’s the Head’s own character. The Head is a man who’ll never admit himself in the wrong. Even if there’s nothing else behind it, that’s enough. He’s taken a definite line and now he won’t budge from it for fear of his reputation. He’s an idea we may try 81to make him alter his mind and he’s determined he won’t. Whatever evidence we could bring up now wouldn’t make any difference at all.”

Pointon grew annoyed. He was a studious boy with rather definite opinions of his own and a particularly strong sense of justice.

“That’s preposterous,” said he. “No man’s got a right to do a thing like that. He’s not a dictator. We’ve always elected our own captains at games.... This is all rot. Do you mean to say he’s going to make Rouse suffer like this and ruin the school’s footer season just because he hasn’t the decency to admit himself in the wrong?”

“That’s Toby’s idea,” said Terence, “and Toby isn’t often wrong over a thing like this. He’s done a lot of arguing with the Head too ... and none of us have really spoken to him at all in private. Toby’s probably right.”

“In that case,” said Pointon, “we shall require a deputation and we’d better decide now who it shall be.”

It was twenty-five minutes before Toby came back, and they saw at once that his countenance was grave.

“It’s no use at all,” said he. “The Head’s firm. He says that unless you have elected a new captain by six o’clock to-night, he will elect one for you, and it may not be one that you expect.”

“Did you ask him to receive a deputation, sir?” said Smythe.

Toby looked at him fixedly.

“No. It was clear that if I did he would refuse. So I decided that if there were going to be a deputation at all it had better be an impromptu one. And I think I’ll leave that to you.”

Looking at him, they understood: Toby was a master.



Coles returned to his study in a very bad temper. There had been one precious minute during the meeting when he had found himself suddenly thinking:

“My word! Supposing they should elect me!”

Never before had he seriously considered himself captain of Rugby football; but now that he did so he found the sensation peculiarly delightful. In these fleeting moments he imagined himself the most important man in the school, a veritable maker of laws. He pictured the favours he would be able to win from other fellows by withholding or bestowing colours. He would be respected in the town. He would be able to get things on tick. He might even be awarded a money prize by his proud father.

All these possibilities had flashed before his mind’s eye whilst other names were being suggested. Then that well-meaning but misguided individual had risen really and truly to propose his own and the chance was altogether too much for him. He had jumped to his feet.... There remained now nothing but the memory of being called an ass.

After all, he was the best drop-kick in the school. He could not for the life of him see why it should be so very absurd to suppose him captain. It is, of course, at such times as this that the close observer may discern the subtle difference between one who is instinctively a gentleman and one who is not. Coles was not a young man of good taste and that’s all there is to it.

83At all events he was very angry, and the first butt upon whom he could vent his feelings happened to be Bobbie Carr, who was waiting obediently outside his study. Coles pounced upon him eagerly. To Bobbie his nose looked longer than ever, and more beak-like; his prominent cheek-bones, too, were touched with the hectic flush of indignation.

He pointed at Bobbie fiercely.

“What are you doing here? Why are you hanging about outside my study? When I want you I call for you. Nothing will annoy me so much as to see you when I don’t want you.”

“You told me to come,” said Bobbie mildly.

Coles, who had turned, spun round upon him instantly, his whole countenance darkening like the sky before a storm.

“You’d argue, would you? I told you to come, did I? Well, now I tell you to go, so GO!

He made a threatening gesture towards Bobbie, but as Bobbie did not flinch he emitted a sound of utter passion and went noisily into his study, slamming the door behind him.

Once inside, he threw himself into a chair and began to brood. And, brooding, he came to a sudden decision.

Coles had certain friends, and it was his custom to entertain these friends during the early part of each term. Afterwards they, in their turn, entertained him. But he liked to be the first to issue an invitation. For one thing, this enabled him to cut a dash whilst he still had a fair amount of money; and having duly impressed the said friends with the way in which he believed in doing things, he was then able to enjoy their hospitality on a similarly lavish scale during times when he himself was rather hard up, entirely free of cost.

These entertainments were not feeds as feeds are generally understood. That is to say, expense and 84provender were never pooled. The inclusion of parcels from home was rather scorned if anything. It would have implied that the host was unable to provide a really sumptuous repast out of his own pocket, and had had to resort to a means of entertaining which is available to every junior. To Coles and his friends this would never have done. You will gather that Coles and his friends were snobs and you will be correct. But there was something else. They were, in addition, fools. None of these repasts was complete without one special item. There is no use hiding the fact. The item was drink. Under these circumstances it is surprising, of course, that Coles should have succeeded in getting into the First Fifteen the previous year. Coles was, however, passably clever. Very few in the school knew that he was addicted to this particular form of vice, and he took care that very few should. He posed as a connoisseur of whisky only to those friends who shared it with him. To all appearances he trained conscientiously, and he was sufficiently skilful to avoid giving any outward signs that he was not always fit. In addition, he indulged in drink only after matches, so that on Saturdays he was usually fit enough to pass muster. Indeed, whenever he had felt at all off colour he had found it easy enough to plead a cold.

The idea came to him now that he would vent his feelings in entertaining his friends to a really good evening. It should take place in his study, and he would drown his bitterness in fiery spirits flowing from a teapot. He did not like whisky, but it was supposed to be a good comforter once you had got it down, and besides, it was great to be able to take the stuff slightly stronger than the next man.

He came to this decision suddenly, and he reflected only for a few moments. He could scarcely have 85chosen a better night for the party. The deputation would be visiting the Head that evening and he expected that the school would retire to bed in something of an uproar. There might be a house demonstration in favour of Rouse. It was, moreover, very unlikely that there would be a Rugby match under present circumstances for a full week. Everything was to the good. He began to cheer up. At last he went to the door, opened it, and let out a piercing cry.

There was no answer at all. The corridor was absolutely silent.

It was only a very few minutes since he had sent Carr away, and to find now that when he really wanted him he had entirely disappeared was more than Coles could bear. He choked back a sob of despair and tried again. This time he shouted, if possible, more loudly and more angrily. Still there was silence. He muttered: “Where is he?” in a sort of stage whisper full of threatening significance, almost as if he believed Carr might be hiding a few yards away and, hearing him, would come out. He was really very like a spoilt child. It is said that walls have ears. If so, one must pity the wall which received the full blast of Coles’ next cry. Coles meant to attract attention or burst, and to do one or the other he richly deserved. As it happens, he attracted the attention of Rouse, who appeared round the corner with an expression of extreme annoyance.

“Are you ill?” said he. “Do you want help?”

“I want my fag,” snapped Coles. “He was here only a minute ago, the jackass.”

“The chances are that your first shout knocked him flat on his face,” said Rouse, “and he’s lying round the corner in a fit. It nearly had that effect on me. I thought you’d been taken queer. If it’s 86only your fag you want would you mind stopping that unholy row, or else only make it at stated times, so that a fellow could know it was coming and be ready for it?”

Coles began to go pink and white by turns. He was very nearly losing all control of himself. He badly wanted to hit somebody in the eye, and the only consideration that kept him from doing so at once was uncertainty as to whether it would be altogether a good thing to start on Rouse.

Had he known what had actually happened he might, however, have even risked this.

Rouse had met Carr down the corridor on his way back from the meeting and had stopped for a minute to speak to him, bent on displaying good spirits at all costs in case the boy might already have heard what had happened. In the middle of his conversation Coles’ first shout had reached their ears, and Bobbie Carr had moved as if to go in answer to it. Before he had time to start, however, the second cry had come, and Rouse had turned in the direction from which it came almost angrily.

“What’s he making that row for?” said he. “Don’t go. That fellow ought to learn how to treat a fag before he has one. You push off. I’ll tell him I sent you on an errand. I’ll go and tick him off.”

Bobbie Carr seemed a little uncertain.

“I’d better answer him,” said he at last.

At that moment the third shout reached their ears.

“Listen to that,” said Rouse. “He’s off his head. If you go to him now the first thing he’ll do will be to catch you a whack across the face, and then I shall have to come in and intervene. It’s hardly fair to Coles. You go. I’ll go along and see if I can calm him down by means of the honeyed word.”

Eventually Bobbie saw that Rouse meant it and moved slowly away, though, if Rouse’s forecast were true, it seemed to him a little like funking.

87Rouse looked at Coles now with cool forbearance.

“As a matter of fact,” said he, “I met Carr a short while back, and as he’d got nothing to do I sent him on a little errand. You would have shouted like that all night and he wouldn’t have heard you. See how silly you make yourself.”

Coles made an idiotic gesture.

“Sent him on an errand?” said he. “But Carr’s my fag!”

“Well, well,” said Rouse, “if you have anything you really want doing permit me to do it for you. I notice you want your neck washing.”

Coles stepped forward, and leaned towards Rouse until his face was barely an inch away from his. Then he spoke through clenched teeth.

“I don’t want any of that,” said he. “Understand, I don’t want it. Whether you’re captain of footer or not, I don’t want any of that.” He paused. “Otherwise you and I will come to blows. You’ve always thought it funny to pull my leg. It’s time it stopped.”

At the time he presumably forgot that he had never failed to avail himself of any chance that had presented itself to him of insulting or annoying Rouse; nor that on two of the more recent occasions upon which Henry Hope had assisted Terence and Rouse out of a hole it had been he himself who had been instrumental in getting them into it.

“You rather ask for it,” said Rouse gently. “If you could only see how perfectly childish you look in these tempers of yours you’d realise that a chap does you a good turn by trying to cure you. One of these days you’ll do something in a passion of fury that you’ll be sorry for.”

Coles slowly withdrew his face. He then drew back a step and indicated Rouse with a warning finger.

“Take care what you say,” said he darkly. “You be very careful.”

88Rouse sighed.

“Before I go,” said he, “there’s one other thing. I’m going to see Morley to-day with a view to asking if I can have Carr for my fag and give you my own. Ludlow would be rather more suited to your temperament than Carr. Ludlow’s had a bit of experience. He’ll know what’s what—if you understand me—and Carr won’t. You can hardly have got used to Carr yet, so you won’t mind, of course.”

He stopped and looked at the other inquiringly.

“Yes, I do mind,” said Coles. “I object very strongly. I particularly asked for Carr.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Because,” said Coles, “if you want to know—Carr’s a personal friend of mine. I know his family. That’s why.”

He stood a moment watching the effect of this news and then turned abruptly, shot into his study, and flung the door to behind him with a resounding crash.

“Exit Coles by door left centre,” whispered Rouse, and turning thoughtfully, made off at a dignified pace down the corridor.

Back in his chair, Coles began to reflect anew. He was just a little puzzled as to why Rouse should want to take Carr away, but not very. Carr had evidently chummed up with Henry Hope, and Henry was a sworn ally of the firm of Rouse and Nicholson. So far it was easy to trace the course of events. It was merely the working of a clique.

But he was not at all sure whether Carr knew of the suggestion yet. If so, he was a bigger fool than he had taken him for. He must know that if he went over to the enemy Coles would give away his secret without a second thought. Surely he could not be prepared for that.

He considered the matter carefully from all standpoints. 89At last he decided to interrogate Carr himself. This reminded him that Carr had yet to be found. He began to grow angry again at once. Carr had got to be found. He was going to hold a party and Carr had to go down to the town and fetch the necessary goods. Also Carr had to be instructed in his behaviour when on guard that evening.

Supposing, though, that Carr did want to go and fag for Rouse?

If he surrendered his only hold over him in a fit of spite he might regret it afterwards. No. He must keep Carr’s secret as long as possible. Only by having that always over his head would Carr be taught true obedience. The secret was a valuable possession. He must prevent Carr from going over to Rouse by some other means. The secret ought only to be a last resort.

He dipped again into the recesses of his imaginative mind. There must be some other way. All he had to do was to find it.

At last he went out like the man in a fairy tale to seek his fortune, and his success was appropriately rapid. Evidently, in spite of having been called an ass at a Rugger meeting, this was his lucky day. Out on the gravel path behind the school he came upon a small group. The group was composed of Henry and Carr and the fat boy whose name was Coppin. He stood aside for a moment unnoticed and watched what was happening. Henry was striking a favourite pose, that of the plain-clothes man interrogating a suspect. He had a stiff finger pressed against the fat boy’s waistcoat, and his eyes were turned up so as to look over the tops of his spectacles at the unhappy Coppin. His height was unimposing because he had adopted a crouch in order to place full emphasis behind the forefinger with which he was pinning the fat boy down. Bobbie Carr had the appearance of an interested spectator 90more than anything else, but he was talking at the time that Coles came upon them, and it was clear that he was accusing the fat boy of some misdemeanour.

From the fat boy’s expression too it was clear that he was fairly and squarely cornered. Coles tumbled to the position of affairs with praiseworthy rapidity. He could identify the fat boy at once from Terence’s description at the meeting, and it seemed clear to Coles that the other two were accusing him of sneaking, or perhaps even of laying false evidence against Rouse. The fat boy’s countenance would have given away his guilt if nothing else had.

Coles waited a minute or two in consideration of affairs and then came to a quick decision. There was very little time left before afternoon school. He must act quickly.

His voice rang out, and Henry jumped hurriedly sideways as if in remembrance of recent happenings. Carr came over to him obediently.

“Here,” said Coles, “I’ve been trying to find you for a deuce of a long time. Now that I’ve found you try and be intelligent and don’t waste time making me say things twice.... I’m in no end of a hurry. Rouse is going to ask for you as his fag. Did you get him to do that?”

“No,” said Carr.

“You didn’t? That’s just as well for you. Because you won’t get the better of me that way. Very well, then. Understand that if you’re given the opportunity, you don’t want to change. D’you get me? If they ask you whom you want to fag for, it’s me.”

He paused. Bobbie was looking at him dubiously.


“Why?” repeated Coles. “Because I tell you so. You know why you’d better do as I tell you, don’t you?”

91Bobbie did not answer. He appeared to be considering the point.

“There’s another thing,” observed Coles, as if to help him decide. “You may know that Rouse is fighting tooth and nail to retain the captaincy of football. There’s a deputation going to the Head this evening. It’s touch and go what happens. Any slight evidence against Rouse or Rouse’s clique will make all the difference. Well, you know what I’ve just seen, don’t you? I’ve seen you and Henry Hope threatening that little kid who’s supposed to have caused all the trouble by splitting on Rouse. You know what that means. You’re friendly with Rouse and so is Hope. Supposing I go to the Head now and tell him what I’ve seen, which way do you think his decision will go? He’s dead nuts on bullying. That’s the only thing that’s caused Rouse’s downfall. You see what I mean.... Trying to get at the kid whom Rouse has been bullying, trying to frighten him into saying Rouse never bullied him at all. You get me, don’t you?”

Bobbie looked at him in amazement.

“Why—why, you wouldn’t do a thing like that?”

Coles laughed shortly.

“Wouldn’t I? That’s all you know about it. You haven’t summed me up very well.” He shook his head. “No,” said he, “I don’t stick at a little thing like that. Now, which shall it be? Quick! I told you I was in a hurry.... Will you let Rouse in over the captaincy or stick to me?”

Bobbie did not take long to consider. He was new to Public School life and there was clearly no time to consult Henry.

“If it’s a question of that, I’ll stick to you.”

Coles smiled pleasantly. “Right,” said he. “Well, don’t forget it. And don’t turn round to-morrow and say you won’t. Because now you’ve promised there’s plenty of ways of keeping you to your word.”

92This was unnecessary. If Bobbie Carr once promised, nothing else was necessary to keep him to his word. But perhaps Coles may be excused for not appreciating such a point of view as that.

“Now,” said he, with a sigh of relief, “I’m arranging a little party to-night to celebrate the new term. It won’t be after lights out or anything of that sort, but it’ll be rather a swagger affair, and I want you to go down and fetch me up some fodder. I shall give you a note—rather a special note—for a little private house just out of the town, and you’ll call there for a parcel. It’ll be done up in a cardboard box and you’ll be jolly careful—as careful as you know how—not to drop it, or anything like that. D’you see?”

Bobbie slowly nodded his head.

“On no account are you to tell anyone else about this,” continued Coles. “And you’re to go alone. I’m showing a good deal of trust in you in sending you at all. I usually get these things myself for safety, but to-night there’s the deputation on and I haven’t had time even to send out the invitations yet, so I’ll have to trust to you. You’d better remember how you stand with me and play the game. Tell nobody and go alone. On no account do you tell that Henry Hope of yours. D’you understand that?”

Again Bobbie nodded his head, though this time it was clearly with some foreboding of the difficulties ahead.

“You mustn’t even let him guess you’re going out for me at all, otherwise he’ll follow you and act the spy. He’s good at that. You must take the most absolute care. Otherwise you know what’ll happen. I shall report what I’ve just seen and the whole school will know about your father.” He reached out a hand and drove home these points with a severe clap on Bobbie’s shoulder. “Now 93you can go,” said he; “and come to me immediately after school this afternoon and I’ll give you the note and the address you’re to go to.”

He turned with a portentous frown and walked away considerably more satisfied than he had been at any time during the day.

To all intents and purposes Henry had vanished. In reality he had not, and at last Bobbie discerned him standing gravely beside a clump of ivy against the wall.

He did not beckon to Bobbie.

He just looked at him and the movement of his lips seemed to say, “Come,” just as it does when people look like that on the film.

Bobbie came slowly and somewhat unhappily.

“In your interests,” said Henry, when he had eventually reached his side, “I watched all. It wasn’t eavesdropping, because I couldn’t hear a word. But I could see Coles’ face and once I saw yours. I won’t ask you to tell me anything at all. Coles has sworn you to secrecy, I’ll bet. I could almost see him doing it. So don’t tell me anything you’d rather not. Just rest assured that you aren’t in such a hole as you think. I’m on your side.

“There’s another thing,” he added, as if on an afterthought, “that you may not know, and that Coles may not know—but I happen to have heard from a reliable source that Rouse is going to ask for you to be his fag. As a matter of fact, it was Terence—Nicholson, that is—who told me. That ought to cheer you up!”

He looked at Bobbie happily. Bobbie’s expression never changed. For a moment Henry looked decidedly disappointed. But at last a look of understanding suddenly came into his eye. And as he looked down at Bobbie darkly, his face grew suddenly very old indeed, very old and very wise.



The new Head had dined well and in due course had retired to that wide room of heavy curtains and stained-glass windows wherein the Grey Man had always seemed so admirable a Head. Dr Roe did not seem at all in keeping with that place of peaceful dignity. This had been one of the things that had troubled Toby most. He was too loud of speech, too free of gesture, and he had not the upright presence which had been so memorable a part of the man whose hair and eyes and clothing had been grey.

The new Head had retired to his study that evening much as a dog retires to his kennel with a bone. He had taken papers and a long cigar and had sat down heavily in the great arm-chair beside the fireplace; then, leaning back, he had rested his head against a blue plush cushion, with a sigh of deep content. Now his eyes passed slowly round the room, taking in previously unnoticed features, and at last came back to the fire, where they fixed a sleepy gaze upon some vision in the glowing coals. It was a small fire, for summer had scarcely passed, but Dr Roe was a lover of fires and he had ordered this especially. He poked it with his boot and upset a few cinders into the grate. Finally, he considered the papers he had brought with him for perusal. They seemed but faintly interesting, and eventually the memory of his dinner proved too much: slowly his eyes closed. Within a few moments the new 95Headmaster of Harley was dozing in his chair with nodding head and mouth agape.

Now whilst he dozed he had a dream. It was the usual silly sort of dream and he found himself cast for the part of king. He was only the king of one of those insignificant little states whose troubles form the plot of many a comic opera, but that is better than not being a king at all, and at all events he was surprisingly well loved. In his dream the whole populace were acclaiming him. He was being bombarded with flowers. His courtiers (amongst whom might be noticed the school bursar looking very natty in red velvet) stood smilingly around him, bowing and waving to the swaying crowd gathered before his window. He himself was behaving in a kingly but somewhat distant manner, and once when an ornamental basket of hollyhocks had caught him a crashing blow between the eyes he had shown annoyance. It seemed clear in this dream, however, that sooner or later he would have to make a speech, and as he considered himself by no means a bad speaker he did not keep the crowd waiting any longer than was proper.

That part of his dream in which he rose to his feet with a handful of red robe clutched at his hip was extremely lifelike.

He was standing on a balcony looking down upon his people, and he was only faintly conscious in his dream that this balcony was the window-sill of his present study.

At first the crowd could not restrain their delight at all. Whether this was because they had at last got something good at which to aim their missiles, or whether they were honestly glad to see him looking so well, we cannot judge, but it was a long time before he could obtain a hearing. They simply cheered and cheered and cheered. One man even 96threw his hat into the air and delayed proceedings for a long time by stubbornly trying to find it again. Eventually the Head’s reception grew to such a pitch that something had to be done about it.

So he woke up.

He did so with a jerk, and found himself staring at the school porter, who in his turn was staring back at him.

There was an extraordinary noise in progress; well, perhaps hardly a noise—the subdued shuffle of feet—the sound of a vast crowd endeavouring to move quietly. At first the Head took this to be some part of his dream which had not entirely vanished, but it continued, and at last he dropped his eyes thoughtfully, looked up again at the porter and said:

“Hammond, what is that noise?”

Hammond, who had loved the Grey Man himself, had received strict instructions that he was on no account to answer any question of this kind in such words as: “It’s the boys, sir.” The boys he understood would be trying their best to pretend they weren’t there. Hammond did his best to induce the Head to believe it.

What noise, sir?” said he.

The Headmaster gazed at him dubiously, and at last decided for reasons of his own not to press the point; he was under a strong impression that a good part of his dream was obstinately refusing to fade away, and he was conscious of a keen desire to move across to the curtains and draw them aside. He was prepared to bet with himself that the crowd he had seen in his dreams was not so mythical as he had at first supposed. The porter, however, gave him no time to secure proof. He had a one-line part in the evening’s drama and he spoke it with pride.

His voice was loud and clear, even a little pompous:

97“The captain of the school, sir, wishes to speak to you.”

The Head peered at him.


The captain of the school, sir.”

“What does he want?”

Hammond was respectfully patient.

“He wants to see you, sir.”

“To see me? Who? Who does?”

Dr Roe, you see, was still paying only partial attention.

This time Hammond made no answer at all. He merely stared at the Head.

Dr Roe tumbled to it suddenly. He had still been wondering what was really happening outside his window, but the sight of the school porter’s pitiful stare brought him to his senses abruptly. He waved a hand.

“Well, well,” said he, “show him in.”

Hammond went like a rat from a cage.

Next moment the door opened again and Pointon appeared, a tall, studious young man considerably impressed with the importance of the occasion.

He was not alone. As he entered, the Head saw a string of young men behind him, and he rose to his feet in surprise.

“What is this?”

Pointon spoke in a calm voice. If anything the Head was the more excited of the two.

“Some prefects of the school ask to be allowed to speak to you, sir.”

“What is it about?”

The deputation moved into the room, looked round almost instinctively for the Grey Man, and then brought their eyes to bear, as one man, upon the Head who had taken his place.

“About Rouse, sir,” said Pointon. “They wish me as their spokesman to tell you that Rouse is the 98only fellow they wish to elect as captain of football, and they ask you to——”

The Head advanced upon them in growing anger.

“Then it is quite useless,” he replied. “You would have done better not to have come. My mind is irrevocably made up. I come from Wilton, and at that school they knew me before I left to be a man of iron determination. By trying to dissuade me you will only make me more resolute. I have made my decision and communicated it to the school. I expect you to abide by that decision without a murmur. To come here like this is a sign of weakness amongst those whom I expected to set the school an example, and it is very displeasing to me.”

“Will you hear us, sir?” said Smythe. “There are some things which we think you can’t realise.”

Dr Roe turned upon him irritably.

“No,” said he, “I will not hear you. I have heard more than enough of this matter. You are one and all making a mountain out of a mole-hill. It is preposterous to suggest that there is only one boy in a great Public School like this who is agreeable to you as captain of football. If you had only eyes to see, you would understand for yourselves what I saw in twenty-four hours and was in time to prevent. Rouse is the one boy here who is least suited of any of you for the post. You cannot see that for yourselves and it is my duty to guide you; it is my intention to do my duty with a will of iron. They knew me at Wilton, and before very long you will know me here.” He paused. They were sullenly quiet. “Well,” he said, “are you prepared to elect a captain?”

For a moment there was absolute silence.

Pointon turned and looked round his deputation as if for support. At last Terence Nicholson spoke.


99“No, sir,” said he; “we are not. You won’t hear us and you don’t understand.”

He drew back and fixed Terence with a wrathful glare.

“Mr Nicholson has said everything you could say over and over again. There is no scope left for argument at all. I understand that you refuse to obey me. If so, you leave the election of a captain entirely in my hands. You refuse to elect your own?”

Once again there was silence. And this time the silence was significant.

After Toby’s experience they had not expected a fair hearing; the belief that Dr Roe was going to fight them was now a certainty.

The Head turned and moved suddenly towards the window. His curiosity as to what was really happening outside would no longer be denied. He reached the curtain with outstretched hand and tugged it aside.

And then in the gathering dusk of late evening he saw what he had to combat. This little upheaval of school life had once seemed to him merely a mole-hill. But he had spoken truly: they had made of it a mountain. As far as the eye could reach there stretched a sea of faces showing above the clear white of schoolboys’ collars, very silent and very still, waiting as if for a signal from within. He stared out upon the scene for thirty seconds and at last he turned. Even in this wide room the silence was tense. Not one of the deputation seemed to be really drawing breath. The new Head faced them sternly, his grim visage more than ever like the face of a bloodhound, his spectacles set firmly upon the broad bridge of his nose.

“What does that mean?” he said at last. “Why are all those boys out there? What do they want?”

Terence stepped forward boldly. There was the 100joy of battle in his eyes. “They want Rouse, sir,” said he. “Every mother’s son amongst them—and they are waiting for your answer.”

The Head’s eyes hardened till they shone like steel.

“Very well,” said he. “Then you may make it known at once.” He paused and looked at each boy in turn, and at last he told them in slow emphatic words how he had planned his answer.



Bobbie Carr leaned wearily against the wall with hands thrust deep in his pockets and an expression of the most complete dejection.

Except for those deplorable young men who were celebrating their return to school behind the closed doors of Coles’ study, he believed that he was absolutely alone in the whole of Morley’s. Everybody else had gone. In twos and threes and fours they had all passed down the corridor, talking in eager whispers and making emphatic gestures of resolve. To-night the school were meeting to lodge one last gigantic protest against the ways of the new Headmaster in a demonstration that would have weight of numbers solidly behind it and a mighty voice with which to speak.

And he was left alone in a passage. It was really awful. His futile office was to stand about outside that hated study and guard it against intruders. What intruders? There was nobody whatever left in the whole house to intrude. All he had to do was to kick his heels about and pretend to be waiting idiotically for a friend.

All the while the precious minutes were passing. Soon the whole school would be gathered outside the Head’s window and he, who had really conceived as great an admiration for Rouse as any other boy in the school, would not be there. Others would notice his absence and comment upon it; there would be a general and a perfectly just vote that he be kicked.

102It was worse than awful. It was pitiful.

Quite unexpectedly Henry came down the passage, stopped at Coles’ study and reached for the doorknob.

Bobbie sprang forward in one excited leap.

“Stop! Hey! Where are you going?”

Henry’s attitude was admirable. His hand never reached the door. In point of fact it was never intended to. His arm fell stiffly to his side.

Then he looked for a spot suitable for quiet conversation away from the door. It was important that if Coles were in that study he should not know that he, Henry Hope, was outside.

At last he took Bobbie by the arm and moved down the passage in the manner of a novice on roller skates, until they were safely out of earshot, when he stopped and placed his hands upon his hips.

“You may not know it,” he began, “but I have been three times to the corner of this passage, only to find you each time propping up the wall.”

Bobbie gazed at him dully and could offer no reasonable reply.

“Say,” demanded Henry, “what’s Coles ... doing ... in that room?”

“How do you know Coles is in there?”

Henry snapped his finger.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I’ll tell you how things are. I believe Coles is up against Rouse. I believe he thinks he’s got a chance of being captain himself. That’s what everybody’s saying, anyway. Now Rouse asked for you as his fag and it seems you’ve told Morley that you’d rather stay with Coles. And what I want to know is, why?”

Bobbie was silent.

“There’s only one thing to it. Somehow or other Coles has got a strangle-hold on you.... There’s a mystery in this. Coles told Rouse that he knew 103your family and for that reason he particularly wanted you as his fag. I know Coles is sick with Rouse; of course, he’s blind jealous. He’s sick that he wasn’t asked to form one of the deputation to-night too.... But there’s more in it than that. Somehow Coles has got you in his grip. I’m going to find out why, and the only way to do that is to get a hold on Coles. So—what’s Coles doing in that study?”

“How do you know he’s in there?” demanded Bobbie.

Henry made a gesture of extreme pride.

“Most of this I’ve told you I know because Rouse knows—and Rouse told me, and, by Gemini! he told the right man. But how did I know Coles was in there? Well, it’s as plain to me as if it were written up on a placard outside the door. Coles is nowhere in the school, and you’ve stuck here for the last hour. To prove it I came up as though I were going into the room and you wouldn’t let me ... and I say ... does this mean he’s not going to help in the hullabaloo at all?”

“I don’t know,” said Bobbie wretchedly.

Henry considered the matter for a moment. At last he turned and seized the other by the wrist.

“Very well,” said he, “I’m going to fetch Coles out of it.”

Fetch him out?



“By going in.”

“But that won’t fetch him out—unless you mean he’ll chase you.”

Chase me?” Henry’s dignity appeared to be somewhat offended. “Chase me?” he repeated. “Of course not. I mean to go in and tell him Pointon’s waiting for him at the Head’s room. By the time he gets there the other chaps will be inside and 104when Coles says afterwards: ‘Did you want me?’ Pointon will say: ‘Of course I did. I want every fellow in the school.’ He won’t dare to make a shindy. It’ll look pretty bad if he’s noticed to be the only one absent out of Rouse’s house.... And then,” he added, “as soon as Coles has gone you can go. Do you get me?”

Bobbie cheered up. He glanced at Henry admiringly.

“Do you mean it?” said he. “But how will you get in?”

“That’s easy. You’ll just go and knock at the door, and when he shouts out you’ll say there’s a chap come with a message from Pointon.”

Bobbie considered this plan with sparkling eyes. The greyness of the immediate future began to fade swiftly away.

“Go on,” said Henry. “It’s all right. If there’s any difficulty afterwards I’ll see Terence and he’ll square it. I’m speaking the truth anyway. Pointon does want him. He wants everybody. He said so. I’m just going to remind Coles about it, that’s all, only I shall put it a bit differently, of course.”

“Supposing he kicks you,” submitted Bobbie. “It might hurt.”

This time Henry looked really annoyed.

“Don’t be so stupid,” said he. “You go and knock at the door.”

Bobbie needed no second bidding. He moved forward and knocked loudly.

“Hullo!” cried Coles. “What is it? Who’s there?”

There was distinct vexation in his voice. For one moment Henry quailed. There was no doubt whatever that Coles was the best drop-kick in the school.

Next moment Bobbie had explained. There was a dramatic pause. Henry trembled with excitement. 105At last he heard movement inside the study and Coles’ voice saying:

“All right, send him in.”

The moment had come. Henry set his teeth, and with one hand at his coat-tails surreptitiously ready to protect himself and every nerve alert, he walked stiffly to the door and went in.

As he stood there facing Coles and Coles’ cronies he remembered the day when he had been a fag himself. Everything was so oddly similar. He could just imagine Slade in Coles’ chair and Black standing watchfully beside him. Things had not changed very much. History seemed likely to repeat itself. He did not know that his eyes looked wide and terror-stricken with the strain of nervous tension. He was not really afraid. Nobody likes being kicked, of course, but with Henry it was the dread uncertainty of not knowing whether he was going to be or not that was so upsetting.

Coles rose to his feet.

“Pointon wants me?”


“Is that all he said ... he just wanted me?”

Henry’s brain was alert.

“People noticed you weren’t there, I think. And it seems he wanted everyone. So he wants you.”

Coles suddenly advanced upon him.

“Get out!” he bellowed. “Get out, you frightful garden slug!”

Henry turned and made for the door. He did not really care at the moment whether there was any answer to the message or not. All he wanted was to get out without running. He strove with all his might to do it. He felt the hot breath of the ogre behind him. Every nerve was urging him to jump. He would not. He saw the knob of the door with wide protuberant eyes, his head craned forward, his hand outstretched to grasp it. He was almost 106through ... then it was too late. He heard the swish of its coming, half turned, his hand flew to save him. It was hardly swift enough. The great boot thudded against its target and he shot forward in a stupid bunch and out into the passage. With the frenzy of utter despair he straightened himself in the very nick of time and assumed his natural gait. The pain didn’t matter. It was nothing. His only aim was to save his dignity, and by the skin of his teeth he did it. The door slammed to behind him, and he never so much as jumped.

He moved up the passage and peered at Bobbie over the tops of his spectacles.

“I’ve told him.”

There was just a suspicion of a sob in his voice. Bobbie made no comment. He looked at Henry Hope admiringly. And at last he said:


“I won’t stay,” said Henry. “You follow on. I expect they’ll be out in a minute. I—I won’t stay.”

With scarcely a pause he went stiffly on his way. Bobbie looked after him. And though he may or may not have guessed, he never at all events knew how shockingly it had hurt.

He stood for a while, waiting uncertainly, and at last the door opened again and Coles and his friends came out. They were talking quietly to one another, and Coles turned to him as they passed.

“Here, you can cut. But jolly well be back here as soon as this show’s over. D’you understand that?”

Bobbie nodded excitedly and darted away. Henry had kept his word. He’d be there to cheer Rouse after all.

Thus, then, the last who were in Morley’s passed out to join the silent watchers who stretched in a vast half-circle before the stained-glass windows that 107hid the deputation and the Head, and the house grew strangely still. There was no creak upon the stairs, no voice in any room. Every boy had gone.

Yet not quite all.

In an upstairs study one remained. He stood at the window looking out into the dark, his shoulders squarely set and his heart throbbing with forlorn hope. Every man jack in the school had been a brick to him. It might be that they could win the day by strength of numbers. If so he believed that they would never have a more ardent captain in any year to come than he would be for them this term. But deep in his heart he was desperately afraid. The school were strong, but he had an instinctive fear that they would not be strong enough to win. So he stood waiting, a silent watcher, for the answer that would come.

A group of masters were standing quietly on the flight of wide stone steps; at windows and doors porters and servants of the school, their faces round with wonder, had gradually appeared; but the wide, stiff phalanx that showed the real strength of Harley’s purpose had never moved. Six hundred boys were waiting in silent dignity for an answer from the Head, and when he had drawn aside the heavy curtains and had gazed upon them, no single boy had seemed to move a muscle of his face, not even a solitary cough had snapped the magic of their studied silence.

So they had waited, and at last their answer was on the way. Under the archway the old oak door swung slowly on its hinges. Then Pointon came. He moved with a hesitant step, waiting for those behind him, and though the watchers had hoped that he would give them some kind of cue he made no sign, only at last, with Smythe and Terence at his 108elbow, and the deputation at his heels, he moved towards the crowd.

Every face turned tensely towards him, pale and uplifted in the dusk, and seeming to sway this way and that as if for a better view of his real expression.

And now a stillness that was even more telling than the utter quiet of their waiting settled upon the crowd whilst Pointon climbed on to the parapet and looked out over them grimly.

There was no need to lift his hand. Without one gesture his quietly steady voice broke that ominous hush, and spoke his message.

“We have been to the Head and we’ve told him that the only fellow we mean to have as captain is Rouse. The Head won’t listen to us. We’ve tried to make him understand that nobody else will stand for election or take on the job, and that whilst Rouse is here nobody else would ever be elected. Rouse was made for the job. Even I, who can’t play footer, can comprehend a simple fact like that. But the Head can’t. He won’t budge from his first decision. And now that he’s seen you all out here he’s sent us to tell you what his answer is.” He paused to look round them soberly, and still there was no move. “His answer is this. He has a son. His son is at Wilton. He says that if we will not elect a captain he will elect one for us, so he’s writing to-night to Wilton and his son is going to leave and come here. When he arrives he—the Head’s own son—will be appointed captain of footer, and I’m to tell you that the first thing he will do will be to teach us how to obey.”

He stopped and stood for a moment staring out upon them dully. Then he moved and they understood that he was done.

For an incalculable space of time the school stood rooted to the spot, incredulous, stiff, mute with stupefaction. Then in one psychological second the 109whole vast crowd had shifted into sudden movement and was spreading, fan-like, forward and outwards. There came a swelling roar of indignation. The deputation was suddenly swallowed up, and as they disappeared the crowd began to find voice, elbowing this way and that, in a fever of desperation, whilst over their heads there broke the storm-cloud of rebellion.



For just one minute Rouse had stood at his window staring like one transfixed into the night, his head a little to one side as if in hopes of catching the gist of Pointon’s words. This had been hopeless. The distance was too great and the breeze was blowing away from Morley’s. In the growing dusk it had even been difficult to distinguish the crowd of waiting boys outside the Head’s room sufficiently clearly to gather from the sight how things were going.

One sign alone gave him his cue. It was the silence.

He had hoped forlornly for an outburst of fanatical cheering. That would have meant that the day was won, that his selection stood, that the coming year, in spite of these troublous opening days, would not, after all, be lean. No sound whatever came. The hush was ominous. For just that minute he stood, a lonely figure, at his open study window. Then the answer reached him in a way that was unmistakable.

The night was suddenly broken by a roar of clashing voices, a riotous outburst of fierce cries, then the whole assembly was in sudden movement. He strained his eyes for a clear sight of what was happening, tried all he knew to catch the sense of all the clamour. No set phrase reached him. All he could properly distinguish here and there in the turmoil was the sound of his own name shouted again and 111again as if in passionate loyalty by many voices that he could not recognise.

But it was evidence enough. The last resort of discipline had failed. The school had been irremediably snubbed. And, as he waited, there came to him an almost dreaded thought. The school would still not take it. He read this as the message of that chaotic shouting. They were coming for him. The Head had dragged him from his high estate and the school would not lie down that night until they had hoisted him up again, if only to see him enthroned upon their shoulders as a little tin god, idolised and ten times as strongly established as their captain now than ever before, whatever the Head might have to say.

It came to Rouse as a fear.

He imagined himself hatefully in the limelight, a puffed-up and imaginary hero without just cause. He had some inkling now as to the temper of the school and he knew what it would mean.

He listened again. They were certainly coming towards him. Above the lasting din he could still hear his own name shouted ever and again. He looked round his study nervously, suddenly spotted the lofty cupboard, darted into it and shut the door gingerly behind him.

Two minutes later the clatter of a great stampede was breaking the peace of Morley’s. He crouched in his hiding-place and scarcely dared to breathe. Soon the forerunners were pounding up the stairs and along the passage shouting his name in turn as they came, with a desperate affection that would not be denied.

The door of his study flew open and he heard them tumble in one after the other, and finally cry the news back to those behind.

“He isn’t here. He’s gone!”

This meant no ending to the uproar. He heard 112the message passed to those on the road outside, in high-pitched voices that clamoured for ideas as to where he could be hiding. Then those below, realising that they would now be foremost in the search, turned excitedly, scrunching the gravel underfoot, and made off towards the school again. But those who were in the house intended first to make a proper job of it, while they were here, and he heard them running like a pack of hounds into the common room, and down to the dining-hall below, whilst all the time they shouted for him pleadingly, hoping against vain hope that he would answer and produce himself at last.

Then, in the end, they seemed resolved that he was nowhere there, and off they set in a stern chase after the body of the hunt, racing across the open spaces towards the school again.

He heard the placid tones of Mr Morley feebly remonstrating, then threatening angrily, and towards the end entreating with them, but he was brushed aside by mere strength of numbers and left in the hall of his house shouting mildly after them to show their common-sense and keep the peace.

All this Rouse could hear and understand, and when the house seemed quiet again he very cautiously opened the cupboard door and stretched himself. Next moment he received the surprise of his life. The light was suddenly switched on and revealed him. At the same time Terence Nicholson spoke.

“Come out,” said he. “Come along out, there’s a good fellow.”

For a fleeting space Rouse was absolutely nonplussed and he could only stare. Then he recovered himself with a miraculous effort, brushed his clothes with his hand and stepped daintily out of the cupboard.

“Absolutely NO deception,” he observed. “Any 113gentleman in the audience is fully at liberty to come up and examine both the lady and the box.” He paused. “Nobody? I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your very kind attention.” He bowed, paused again, rendered the National Anthem as a cornet solo, cried: “Pass out quickly, please!” and finally stepped up to Terence, who was regarding him with an affectionate pity and faced him defiantly.

“Now, how did you know I was in that cupboard?” said he. “And how on earth did you come into this room without my hearing you?”

“Elementary,” said Terence, “my jolly old Dr Watson. I came in with the mob. When they ran out again I stayed here and slipped behind the door. Nobody missed me, and as soon as they’d cleared off I simply waited for you to come out. You see, old boy, there’s always something wrong with your schemes. The light from the passage, for example, shone directly upon the cupboard door, and it lit up with strange distinctness a tuft of your coat which was protruding through the slit between the door and the cupboard.”

Rouse regarded his coat critically.

“A nice piece of material, too,” said he. “Try the feel of it, sir.”

Terence smiled grimly.

“As soon as I saw you were apparently not here, though, I of course looked towards that cupboard first.”

“Thinking,” said Rouse gently, “to reach yourself a piece of pie so soon as the place was clear. I’m inclined to think, young Nicholson, that you were as surprised as I was.”

Terence made an abrupt gesture.

“The Head’s given his answer.”

“What is it?”

Terence told him.

114“The name of the new Rugger captain,” said he, “is Roe.”

Rouse looked him through and through, the while his expression slowly changed from one of puzzled misunderstanding to one of set resignation.

He asked no questions. He just thought it out for himself whilst Terence watched him. It was no use saying: “What do you mean?” The words were an explanation in themselves. At last, however, he spoke. His face was a little drawn and his eyes shone with an almost feverish light, but his voice was natural.

“Roe?” said he brightly. “Not young Roe, the son of old Roe?”

Terence nodded.

“Soft Roe, I expect,” continued Rouse, “the son of hard Roe.”

There came a brief silence. Terence was clearly disinclined for mere frivolity. He sat down at the table and supported his chin with both hands.

Rouse gazed at him fondly.

“What an awful shame it is that all this trouble is about me. If only you’d been the one, what a difference it would have made now. So far as Rugger is concerned I do certainly believe I could have made a real success of things, but instead of that you see what’s happening. Within twenty-four hours I shall be looked to to lead a revolution. And,” he added forcefully, “if you can imagine for one moment the buffoon I should look strutting at the head of a mutinous procession in a red nightcap, beating the air with a piece of old iron, you can see at once how impossible it’s going to be. I tell you frankly, Nick, I shall be no good at it at all....” He paused. “If only it had been you all the fuss was about, nobody could have preached rebellion from the top of an egg-box with greater vehemence than I. No paid agitator could ever 115be a more successful firebrand. I should have thoroughly had my heart in the thing. As it is, I’m merely going to feel an unutterable fool from start to finish. I’ve taken to blushing already—and any advertisement will tell you what an awkward habit that is.” He sighed. “Besides,” he added, “what line are we going to adopt? Do you suppose the fellow wants to come here? If he’s anything of a man at all he’ll be fed up to the teeth at leaving Wilton to come here like this. Supposing he refuses to take it on. What then?”

“The Head didn’t speak as though there was any chance of him refusing to take it on,” said Terence. “He seems to have him pretty securely under his thumb.”

Rouse shook his head gloomily.

“I’d far rather keep out of this. I’m beginning to feel unpleasantly like a man trying to get elected for Parliament. Every time I say anything decent to a chap I wonder whether he thinks I’m only saying it so as to get his vote. I’ve a very strong desire to slide away quietly and hide under a leaf.”

“I know,” said Terence; “it isn’t for you to head a revolution. But if they need someone to show ’em the way they haven’t got far to look. If they want a leader—there’s me. I know you better than anyone else.... I’m captain of cricket, too, and I know what’s wanted in the fellow that skippers the school. That’s why I know what they’ve missed in losing you. And this madman—who is he?—a stranger to the school—a miserable outcast—whose first week’s work has been to trample down all the school traditions and snub six hundred fellows with a snap of his fingers. He’ll have to give in. Now that I come to think of it, I shouldn’t be surprised if Toby fights on our side himself. All I can say is that if he does the new Head’s well beaten from the start.”

116“Let’s go out for a stroll,” said Rouse. “No one will go to bed yet awhile, and that horde of savages will be coming back after me in a minute. We will escape into the night.”

They moved out of the study and down the corridor slowly and in silence. There was still an uncanny quiet about the house. Their footsteps echoed from end to end of the passage.

“Seems queer, doesn’t it?” said Terence. “Like being at school in holiday time.”

But on the floor below they heard voices. They were not distinct but they were undoubtedly excited. It seemed that three or four people must be debating some dark point behind the closed door of a study. Then turning a corner they came unexpectedly upon the figure of Bobbie Carr, his back against the wall, his thoughts evidently far away. His eyes were fixed absent-mindedly on the study door, and at first he did not hear footsteps. Looking up suddenly and noticing who came, he shot into an attitude of alertness and watched them uncertainly. They stopped and smiled at him.

“Were you responsible for any of that hullabaloo outside?” demanded Rouse. “Was that you calling out my name about ten minutes ago?”

“I did cheer a bit,” admitted Bobbie. “Everyone’s looking for you. They want to chair you round the school. They’re thinking of burning an effigy of the Head too. Only they can’t find anything suitable to burn.”

Terence slowly nodded his head. Next moment he had turned sharply. The sound of those high-pitched voices had broken out anew. There was no doubt now whence they came. They came from Coles’ study, and one of the most prominent amongst them was the voice of Coles. He was addressing his friends as “Gentlemen!” with a peculiar frequency; also his voice had a froggy croak.

117Rouse turned his head and looked queerly at the door, glanced once at Terence and finally bent a questioning eye on Bobbie.

“Are you ... waiting for Coles?”

Bobbie looked at them, in turn, in evident distress, and made no answer. So they waited a moment, looked once again towards the door, and then proceeded thoughtfully upon their way.

Outside Morley’s they turned behind the house and strolled slowly under the trees. Here was a point of vantage from which they could dimly see the school; the still turbulent ranks of rebels arm-in-arm were goose-stepping proudly up and down before the Head’s room, waiting as if for news that Rouse had been unearthed, and all at once Terence found himself distracted by an unexpected turn of events. It was the sound of cautious footsteps on the gravel, and when he saw who was passing he laid a hand upon Rouse’s arm and silently drew him round. Then, with a finger upon his lips, he pointed with the other hand towards the wall of Morley’s.

It was none other than Henry Hope, and he was making his way laboriously alongside the wall. Now and again he looked up at the windows and paused as if guided by the increasing sounds of revelry that came from the only occupied study in all the building.

Neither of the two who watched him as he moved was quite clear what he was about, but the sight was exceedingly diverting, and a slow and puzzled smile came into Rouse’s countenance.

“It’s Coles he’s after,” whispered Terence, after careful observation. “What’s he going to do?”

“Heave a brick at his window, perchance,” said Rouse, hoarse with delight. “He’s got an idea that Coles has some mysterious kind of hold over that kid Carr, and he says the way to find out what it is is to get a hold on Coles. He’s starting by getting a 118hold on the drain-pipe, you see. I hope he won’t let go. I shouldn’t at all like to see our Henry a mere splash of vermilion on the gravel path. Fancy having to clean up Henry with a spade....”

His voice trailed away into silence.

Slowly, and with considerable difficulty, Henry laboured up the pipe. Once he paused and seemed to be grunting out a prayer for the strength with which to continue. He looked down dizzily, then up again, and finally, after a battle with his nerves, continued the perilous ascent. At last he came opposite Coles’ window. He reached out a hand like that of some family ghost, clutched the window-ledge, and drew himself up to a moderately secure position. The moment had clearly come for the dénouement.

Henry was the master-detective in his element. He pulled his cap furtively over one eye. Then he raised his hand and rapped three times upon the window-pane. There came a sharp silence in the room, and afterwards a sudden scuffle over chairs. Evidently Henry was to be rewarded. Somebody could be heard coming to the window. Henry gritted his teeth. He was going to see inside that room. He was going to get a hold on Coles. He became absolutely tense with expectation. Assuredly Coles would never dare to push him off the pipe. Coles was not prepared to commit a horrid murder. Also his rear was safe from attack. Coles could not kick him. The only possibility was that Coles might run out of the house and throw pebbles. He was going to risk this. He would have seen inside the room anyway.

When at last the blind was slowly lifted, those within sustained a terrible shock. Henry had thrust his face against the window so that his nose was flatly upturned, hideous and blue, against the glass. The row of faces that confronted him, the faces of Coles’ cronies, all slowly backed terror-stricken before 119the alarming apparition, till only the face of Coles was left, livid with fury and flushed with spirits flowing from a teapot. He slowly pushed up the window, then his face came forward telescopically on the end of a long neck until his beak-like nose was almost touching Henry’s cheeks.

“You cur,” said Coles, between his clenched teeth. “What—what on earth are you doing here?”

Henry quailed. Coles was too terrible for words. Nevertheless he peered over the tops of his spectacles resolutely into the study, and at last, still trying to be brave, he spoke in a deep voice:

“I wanted to see inside your study. Thank you very much, I’ve seen all I want to see.”

Coles lifted his fist to strike, but realising the danger of a blow he suddenly altered his mind and adopted a novel form of revenge that had never come into Henry’s reckoning.

He called his friends forward.

“You see this,” said he, “a kid here spying—the kid Hope! I want you to remember this.” He turned to Henry. “You know what happened to Peeping Tom, don’t you? He tried to spy and he was sent blind—blind, I tell you. We shall try the effect of that upon you.”

He slowly stretched out his hands till they reached Henry’s face, and Henry was powerless to resist. With considerable delight he slowly unhooked Henry’s glasses from his ears and withdrew them from Henry’s face. He held them in his fingers with an air of fastidious disgust, looking at them and at Henry, and in the end he whirled his arm like a lasso-king and let them go. They flew into the night, and he heard them break on the gravel path into a hundred pieces. Then he shook his fist in Henry’s face.

“Now,” said he, “see whatever you like, and when you’re tired slide down—and look out for the bump at the bottom.”

120He withdrew his head with a wrathful jerk, pulled down the blind again, and after a moment Henry heard his voice coming from within again.

“Now, gentlemen,” it was saying, “I think I’ll just go downstairs and meet him.”

For a moment Henry hung impotently where he was, a veritable monkey on a stick. He looked downwards. He could see nothing. The night was dark, and without his glasses he could scarcely distinguish the fingers upon his hand. He felt for a grip. At last in utter misery and despair he began to slip awkwardly down the pipe, and even as he went he heard Coles come out of the house and shout to him:

“You may as well hurry up. The longer you stay there the worse it will be for you when you get to the bottom.”

Henry looked down again. He could still distinguish nothing. He could only feel his way. As his feet touched the ground Coles would leap upon him out of the night. He would never see him coming. He would be unable to protect himself in any way. Above all, he would have to stagger to bed afterwards without his glasses. He would not even be able to find the frames. Only the really short-sighted can understand what misery was his just then.

He went down stiffly, hand over hand, trying to keep his lips from trembling. At last he felt the gravel under his feet, released his hold of the drain-pipe and stood upright. From out the darkness Coles spoke.

“Now,” said he, “you can make ready for the biggest hiding you ever had.”

Henry backed against the wall and tried to make out Coles’ expression by screwing up his eyes till only little bead points of watery blue were showing. It was no good. Coles was merely a vast blur 121blotting out all hope. He felt a large hand upon his collar.

“Now,” said Coles.

And then, dramatically, there came from under the trees a sharp command.

“Let him alone!”

Henry shot to his full height, galvanised into hysterical delight. Glasses or no glasses, he knew that for the voice of Rouse.

He was saved.

Coles spun on his heel. Two forms were bearing down upon him out of the gloom, and he prepared for battle. He felt brave and bold, if a trifle uncertain upon his feet. He shot his cuffs and stretched out both hands ready to grasp these intruders in a bear-like hug. His face was flushed and excited, his temper was nearing boiling point. After a struggle he found his voice.

“Who is that?” he demanded. “Who’s that? Come out and face me here! Come out from under those trees, you creepy, crawly spies. Come out into the open!”

They came slowly towards him. As they drew near to Coles he recognised them suddenly, and his voice cracked in a scream of anger.

“W—what! YOU! Was it you sent this beastly little creature shinning up that drain-pipe? He’s spying for you, is he? Well, of all the rotten, low-down swine! D—d—d’you mean to say——”

“The only thing I mean to say,” said Rouse, “is that I perceive you to be tight.”

Coles bounded forward.

His words were not coherent. He only babbled. And when he could babble no more he struck out.

That’s not where I am,” said Rouse. “You want to aim here.”

122Coles turned dazedly, swinging both fists.

For a while they watched him with keen interest. Finally, as he spun round for the fifth time, Terence reached out and pushed him over.

“It’s the cold air doing it,” said Rouse, peering at him distastefully. “I should advise you to go in.”

Next moment Coles had scrambled to his feet again and was staring up at his window and shouting for assistance.

“Hi! Hi! Come down here. There’s a gang of them and they’re setting about me!”

Henry turned wretchedly to Rouse.

“My glasses,” said he. “Did you see them fall? D’you know where they are? I should very much like the frames. I’ll have to find the frames.”

Rouse made a few light passes over his hand, drew his cap from his head and held it over his outstretched hand. At last he slowly raised it by the tassel. The frames lay in his open palm.

“There they are, sir,” said he. “The same that you saw this gentleman throw into the audience.... Am I right, sir?”

He turned sharply. There had come a sudden clatter of feet upon the stairs of Morley’s and a handful of strangely excited young men were tumbling pell-mell out of the door. Nobody had noticed Coles. He appeared to have been merely waiting for aid. Yet at the sound of approaching friends he took courage again. He fixed Rouse with a watery eye, then he leaped viciously upon him from behind. His feet were intertwined with Rouse’s legs. There was a short sharp struggle. Next moment Rouse was free and had turned, judged his distance, and struck accurately and with full force. The blow took Coles on the cheek-bone and was altogether too much for him. He threw up his hands, spun sideways and fell on his back. And as he lay he moaned softly to himself:

123Come on, oh, come on, you chaps! They’re all setting about me ... all of them.”

The chaps answered with a shout of allegiance and sprang upon his assailants. There were four of them, and the first ran into Terence’s straight left and recoiled with his hands to his face. The next seized Rouse in his arms and, loudly shouting, endeavoured to secure a ju-jitsu hold upon his neck. Rouse braced himself, wrenched away an arm and hit downwards with all his strength at the other’s chin.

The move was eminently successful, but it was too late. The last members of the party had come up, and one had sprung on to his back and was bearing him down. The other had almost got him by the ankles when Terence came down on top of him with the full weight of his body, and he met the gravel with his face.

Then, loud above the scuffling and the angry cries of those upon the ground, there sounded a deep-pitched angry bay. It was the sound of Henry in distress.

“Oh! Oh! I can’t see! I can’t see a thing! Who shall I hit? Where are they? What shall I do? I can’t see.”

“Well, have a look at the ground then,” shouted an angry young man, and with a violent push from the rear sent him headlong on to his face, where he lay stiffly still and only bellowed the louder.

“Who shall I hit, Terence, who shall I hit?”

The end came as abruptly as the start. They were suddenly all upon their feet and staring at each other.

“What on earth are you playing at?” demanded somebody. “What’s it all about anyway?”

“It’s about them,” cried Coles, walking forward like a somnambulist. “They’re spies.”

He lifted a hand and pointed at them stiffly.

Rouse made a gesture of appeal.

“If you fellows aren’t as bad as he is, take him in. He doesn’t look at all nice.”

124He saw them looking at one another almost sheepishly, some even dazedly, then one of them heaved a sigh and reached out a courteous and helping hand towards Coles. The others gathered round. There was a slow and stately forward move.... Up the steps they went with their sorry leader, and out of sight into the house. Thus Rouse and Terence were left alone, each with a friendly hand upon Henry’s shoulder, as out of the darkness there came a small and shadowy form, and the weary voice of Bobbie Carr was wafted towards them upon the breeze.

“Can I do anything to help?” he was saying. “What is it? Can I do anything to help?”

Rouse beckoned to him.

“Yes,” said he, “you can. You can take Brighteyes to bed. He can’t see very plainly where he’s going.”

Bobbie came up to Henry and looked at him.

“What’s the matter, Hope?”

“It’s my glasses,” said Henry. “All I’ve got left is the frames.” He sighed lugubriously. “It doesn’t matter,” said he. “I’ve got a hold on Coles anyway, and it may be very useful.”

It was his farewell. Without another word he suffered himself to be led away into the house.

It was after the two who still remained had wandered on, skirting the school in order to save Rouse from his friends, that they met Toby. He was standing outside Seymour’s, smoking a pipe and talking to the house master. He came up to them and strolled side by side along the roadway until at last Terence said:

“It means rebellion, and if they want me to, I’m going to lead it.”

For a while Toby spoke no word. Only the smoke curled quietly upwards from his pipe.

Eventually he answered:

“Yes, of course. I don’t see how you can do 125anything else. There isn’t much doubt that by a step like this the Head has put himself outside the pale. The only thing is what line you ought to take.”

“Why, a rebellion,” said Terence again.

“If by a rebellion you mean making a cock-shy of the school, old son, I’m not sure that we shan’t be doing ourselves more harm than good. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what that will lead to. Sport—work—reputation—everything busted—and over the chaos of it all the villain sitting with a cheerful smile, whilst you take note what you’ve done for yourselves. We want to keep our dignity. We want to carry on so that any outsider who hears of this and can weigh both sides will have no doubt who was in the right. And, particularly, we want to fight as the Grey Man would have us fight.”

The changed expression on Terence’s face showed that he considered himself rebuked by one of the few men from whom he could take a rebuke in kindly spirit.

“What do you think we ought to do about it, then?”

“Listen,” said Toby, “and if an Old Boy may be allowed his say I will tell you.”

It was two minutes later when Rouse looked up with a start. Whilst he had been listening to that philosophical counsel Toby had shrewdly been guiding his footsteps towards the school. They had turned a corner, and now all three stopped short. They were on top of a vast, impatient throng.

“Go to them,” said Toby. “They’ve had their night out and when they’ve had you a bit p’r’aps they’ll go to bed without smashing anything. And if I were you I should tell them what you’re going to do. Let them into the secret. They’ll feel more 126satisfied then.” He gave Rouse a final pat on the back, then slipped away.

For a brief space Rouse stood stock-still. Then through a break in the dark veil of the skies the moon flashed her bull’s-eye upon him and he stood revealed—just as Terence had discovered him making his exit from the cupboard.

There came a loud, delighted bellow from the nearest group and it was too late for escape. Rouse darted frantically to a flank, but he was held by a high wall and he turned and waited for them helplessly. From every possible direction his beloved followers bore down. They closed in and would not be denied. There came a scuffle in the dark, then he was lifted up and at last he could be seen in his rightful place, perched upon the shoulders of those nearest to him and clutching a tuft of hair in each hand for support.

A stately concourse formed up on either side and slowly surged forward, taking new shape as they ranged themselves formally outside the stained-glass windows and broke into song.

They had hoped that the Head would presently appear. No sound that he could even hear their chanting of allegiance was forthcoming.

Finally it occurred to them that he might not be there and the next best thing was clearly a grand procession round the school.

The bearers turned unsteadily about and moved away.

As they went, to the crashing music of the Harley song, watching them go stood Terence, still where Rouse had left him, with a smile of satisfaction about his lips.

There also watched the new Headmaster, who, unknown to any, had been peering crossly at them with one straining eye through a chink in the heavy curtains.



Christopher Woolf Roe was painfully surprised. He had arrived at Harley by a train previously notified to his father in bold and legible handwriting and not a soul had met him. He had not exactly expected an ornamental awning over the station exit, but he had presumed that somebody of standing in the school would have been waiting upon the platform keenly peering into the carriages as the train came in; somebody who would escort him to the school and introduce him to its leading lights, who would converse with him amiably as they went along the highroad, congratulating him repeatedly upon his delightful father.

There had, as a matter of fact, been a suggestion made that he should be received by a comb-and-paper band comprised of school prefects who would march funereally in front of him all the way from the station to the school, but word from Terence Nicholson had gone forth that this would not be in keeping with school dignity.

Hence he had come unwelcomed and unsung.

Arrived at the school, he had sought out his father. His father had been out. This had put the finishing touch to his complete depression. So far, all he knew was that, according to his father’s letter, circumstances had arisen which made it advisable that he should come to Harley. Another letter to the new Head of Wilton had intimated, possibly in more detail, that he should do so as soon as possible, 128and this had turned out to be in three days’ time. But as to the real why and wherefore, and as to what the circumstances were he was still completely in the dark.

He sought for aid.

The school porter fetched the bursar, who told him that he would be in Seymour’s house, and who coldly pointed out the way to him with a pencil. Here another porter had shown him to a vacant study. On the way there he had, of course, passed any number of boys. Not one solitary soul amongst them, from the oldest to the youngest, had paid the slightest attention to him. He might have been invisible.

Two hours later he had seen his father and he understood.

“The secretary,” Dr Roe had told him, “is a boy called Smythe.”

He sought Smythe out.

Smythe was sitting in his study hidden behind a book, and his first impression when, having said “Come in,” he peered over the top of his volume to see who came, was that a stray pig was nosing into the room, and he rose with a sweeping gesture intending to drive it out. But as seconds passed he was held spellbound. Behind the snout, which was all he had first seen, and to either side of it, appeared two little pig-like eyes. He also perceived two pouting lips. Finally, when the head came properly into view around the door, Smythe became alarmed.

Come in!” he commanded angrily. “Come in, man!”

The visitor entered slowly, with short steps, and when he was approximately in the centre of the room he halted.

“I’m Roe,” he observed.

Smythe withstood the shock with the greatest 129gallantry. All the same, he did not extend his hand in a warm welcome. He just looked.

“I understand,” observed the other, “that I am to be captain of football here, and that you are secretary.”

He had pointed at Smythe accusingly and now he beamed.

Smythe hastened to correct him.

“A few days ago I was,” said he; “but I have just completed my duties, and now I have resigned. So far as I know there is no footer secretary in this school at present.”

“No secretary! But why not?”

“Because,” said Smythe logically enough, “there is no football.”

“But surely——” said the other. “Why ... I’m captain of football.”

“I believe you are,” responded Smythe; “but my last duty was to scratch the whole of our fixtures for the season.”

Roe was visibly shaken.

“Of course,” added Smythe presently, “it’s a rotten position for you.”

“No, no,” replied the new boy. “I don’t mind a bit. We must arrange some more fixtures now that I’ve come.”

For a moment Smythe stared at him. Then he turned, reached for his book, sat down and commenced to read.

“I must make some notices out,” said Roe. “You must introduce me to the team.”

He waited hopefully for an answer. Smythe merely turned over a page.

“Of course,” continued Roe, “when I first heard about this I was only told that circumstances had arisen which made it desirable that I should leave Wilton.”

Smythe looked up.

130“Well, I can tell you now,” said he, “that the circumstances which have arisen make it very desirable that you should go back to Wilton as speedily as you came.”

“You mean to say, then, that there isn’t going to be any football at all?”

“There will be house games only—under the control of the games master—a matter of arrangement between the captains of the houses. There will be no football which will require the services of a school captain—no school matches. And I have resigned.” He paused. “I commend that example to you,” he observed.

Next moment he was deep in his book again.

Roe looked miserably round the study.

“Why did he fetch me from Wilton then?”

“Goodness only knows! It may be that he wanted you to see the country.”

“But,” said Roe, “this is all rot. I’ve got definite instructions from my father. He told me distinctly that I——”

“You go back to him,” said Smythe, “and make sure that you heard him correctly. Tell him what you’ve found out. And if I were you I should ask him whether you can’t go back.” He moved across the room and opened the door. “This is the way out,” said he.

That evening Smythe recounted this incident to Rouse.

“I also have seen the man,” was the answer. “I made a point of it. I went up to him and I said: ‘Bless me, I seem to know your face. Yet you haven’t been at this school so long, surely?’ He said: ‘I came to-day. My name is Roe.’ I pounced upon him. ‘Roe!’ said I. ‘Go on! Not,’ I said, ‘young Roe, the son of old Roe? Why, I know your father as well as anything. Your 131father and I are the best of friends. Many a time have I discussed your future with him in his private sanctum over a bowl of tea. “The boy,” we have always said, breaking a muffin between us—“the boy, now, what will he become?”’ He said: ‘I’ve become captain of football,’ but he didn’t seem very pleased about it. So I patted him kindly on the shoulder. ‘Ah,’ said I, ‘come now. Not captain of football—surely.... Why, this school doesn’t play football.’ ‘What does it play, then?’ said he. ‘Spillikins,’ said I. ‘I expect you’re captain of that.’”

In accordance with his instructions, Roe reported to his father next morning and explained things as well as he could.

“The most decent fellow I’ve met so far,” said he, “is a chap called Coles. He’s in the First Fifteen, he tells me, and he does seem to have the best interests of the school at heart. He told me a good deal of what’s in the wind, too. The fellows were pretty near an open rebellion at one time, but it seems that Mr Nicholson, the games master, spoke to the chief boys in each house at a meeting, and he’s persuaded them that the reputation of the school comes first, and now it seems they’re going to try what they call passive resistance. Smythe, who you told me was secretary to the team, has resigned, and his last act was to scratch the school fixtures for the season. The only football they’re going to play is inter-house friendlies. The games master persuaded them that as long as they kept up practice for the younger chaps the school wouldn’t suffer so much. So the whole school are standing on their dignity, and Coles says that the next move’s with us.”

He stopped. So far he had spoken in a sing-song voice that was significant of blind obedience to his father; he seemed to have told the Head not so 132much what he as schoolboy thought, as just what he believed his father would most like to hear.

Dr Roe clasped his hands and leaned forward over the table.

“Certainly the next move is with us. And for this reason. There can be no question of warfare between boys and their Headmaster. They must be made to yield to discipline. They may not like my views, but those views, right or wrong, whichever they be, will be forced upon them.”

His son ventured to speak again.

“This boy Coles is almost the only chap who has spoken to me decently, and he says that, although at the moment the school is solid for Rouse, he believes that in about a fortnight’s time they will begin to grow tired of being without school rugger and that their present enthusiasm will wane. He says that that will be my chance. If I can step into the breach then I shall probably get a few boys to join me in starting a First Fifteen again—just a few at first—but by degrees more and more will turn and side with me. He says that if I play my cards well we shall have a proper school team again by half-term, and that only Rouse and his closest friends will be missing from it.”

The Head fixed him with a penetrating glance.

“That is this boy’s honest belief?”

Roe nodded his head.

“It’s mine too,” said the Head cleverly.

“There’s one other thing,” continued the son. “Smythe, as I tell you, has resigned. There’s no school secretary. I shall have to have one because I shan’t know the chaps. Coles pointed that out. He said I should need someone to tell me whom to give colours to and all that. He says that at present it might be unwise for his name to be mentioned, but that as soon as things have settled down a bit and the fellows have got used to the idea that I’ve come, 133and that I mean to stop, they may decide to make the best of it, and then he——”

The Head made a sudden noise of keen satisfaction. He nodded his head briskly.

“Quite,” said he, “quite. I take his point. You think now that he—he is already a member of the school team, you say?—he is a capable footballer?”

“Oh yes, he is one of the most senior players here.”

“You think he would be willing to become the secretary?”

The boy blinked his pig-like eyes and smiled.

“It would make the fellow who has resigned look so silly, wouldn’t it, if he found we got another one in his place so easily? Smythe was really very impertinent to me.”

The Head pursed his lips.

“I will see this boy,” he announced. “Ask him to come and speak to me to-morrow.”

Roe nodded. At last he leaned forward dutifully. He shifted awkwardly upon his seat.

“I’ve talked it over with Coles ... and we rather hope you might be able to move him to my house.... And if you can do it ... as if it were compulsory ... so that fellows wouldn’t know he’d asked for it ... he thinks that then he and I might get a decent team together in Seymour’s.... He has some very good friends in that house ... and if we could get up a little excitement by challenging Morley’s, who at present have the best Fifteen, to a friendly ... and beat them ... Coles thinks it might turn the tide in our favour.”

The Head smiled shrewdly.

There was silence.

“How did you find out all this?” said he. “How did you meet Coles?”

Roe dipped into the recesses of his memory.

134“Why, he came up to me ... and held out his hand ... and then he said: ‘Circumstances have arisen which make you very welcome. Come and have a chat in my study.’ That’s how it was.”

The following day Roe appeared in school with the colours tie of the Harley First Fifteen knotted around his neck, and the result was immediately evident. Rouse and Smythe, the only two in the school who were entitled to wear that tie without the formality of winning it back for the coming season, were forthwith to be noted wearing the neat black tie of Harley’s mourning.



One week later that bubbling effervescence which had been the outward and visible sign of the school’s unrest had very largely subsided.

Harleyans were once more going in dignity about their ways.

At morning prayers those who knew best the temper of the school looked out over the sea of faces, all of which seemed calmly set as if in resignation.

It was true that there had been a couple of friendly matches between houses, but real enthusiasm was lacking. There was over all that hard fact that however well a fellow played he could not win his colours. There were not going to be any colours. This hit the rising and ambitious youngsters badly.

Roe himself had kept discreetly quiet.

The Head had made no further mention of the matter, except to cause it to be known that his own son was Harley’s official Rugger captain.

And through this time of fasting, watching the lean year that had been his dread as it came upon the school and gripped it, Rouse bore himself blithely, true to himself, his sorrow hidden under a mask of gaiety that only deceived the few.

One day Bobbie Carr received a letter, and the next day he went forth into the open country and, striking the footpath that led from the school into the woods, branched away from it and came upon a stile. Upon this stile he settled himself to wait.

136He had not to wait long, and this was fortunate, because he was continually looking about him in fear lest somebody should come upon him waiting there.

At last, looking over the open fields, he saw a distant figure coming towards him along the trodden pathway, and he knew it at a glance. He jumped up and waved, saw the answering gesture and started forward; then suddenly remembered and stopped and looked round dubiously. He was best hidden from prying eyes in the corner where he had waited, and so he drew back under the trees and possessed himself in patience until at last the man had come and he could grip him by the hands.

“Father,” said he.

The man drew him affectionately against the stile, and leaned there in real content for a while before he spoke.

“It’s a roundabout way from the station,” he said at last. “Still, I know the country. It’s a good meeting-place.”

He paused. There was clearly something else upon his mind—something that had made him come; something that Bobbie had read between the lines of his letter. He asked at last quietly enough:

“You’ve kept the secret, Bobbie? Nobody’s found out? Nobody knows?”

For the fraction of a second Bobbie hesitated. Then he spared his father the truth that need not necessarily be told, and shook his head.

“I’ve told no one, of course.”

The man seemed honestly relieved. He began to ask questions about school and the new life; the conversation opened on to a wider field. Time passed.

It must have been an hour later that his father at last held out both hands, said good-bye abruptly and turned away. Bobbie watched him as he went slowly back along the pathway, and for the first time 137since he had been at school he was conscious of a kind of home-sickness. His father was so evidently lonely.

He did not turn until the figure on the pathway had passed out of sight, and then he did so regretfully and started back to school. And as he went his father’s warning drummed in his head: “Just this once and then, I think, never again. But until it is over you must promise me that not even your best friend here shall know your secret. You can’t understand as I can what they would say of you here if they knew. And I may not be able to keep my right name out of the papers.”

Those had been his father’s final words. And all the way back to the school he kept remembering them.

Outside Morley’s Coles met him. He was carrying a handful of belongings and he wore a cunning smile upon his countenance.

“Carr,” said he, “I have something to say to you.”

“Yes,” said Bobbie.

“I’m leaving Morley’s.” He paused. “It’s the Head,” he explained. “For some reason or other he wants me in Seymour’s. There’s no help for it. I’ll have to go. It’s an order.”

He gazed into the distance. Bobbie’s heart beat quickly with delight. To lose Coles would be an unprecedented joy. It was a stroke of luck upon which he had never reckoned. He turned to Coles with shining eyes and seemed about to thank him cordially for going.

Coles looked down upon him with calculated craft.

“Don’t be under any misapprehension,” said he. “I have explained to the Head exactly how things are—and you—are going too.”

Bobbie gaped.

138“What? Explained to him? What have you explained?”

“That I know your family, and that you are rather specially entrusted to my care. I have told him how anxious I am to have you under my wing, and so—he has at last consented to you coming too.”

After a minute’s utter silence he spoke again.

“You don’t seem overjoyed?”

Still Bobbie did not answer.

He was wondering how he would get on without Henry Hope at his side, and what Henry would say about him going without a word of protest.

“Anyway,” said the persecutor, “don’t forget our bargain. If there should be any talk of you staying behind, if they should ask you, you’ll know what to say, won’t you?” He waited a moment, looking at Bobbie straightly. “Won’t you?”

“Yes,” said Bobbie at last. “I suppose so.”

It was evening.

Over a study table Terence and Rouse faced one another. Rouse had his chin resting in one hand, and his expression was that of a young man wrestling with a mighty problem.

“You see,” said he, “Seymour’s have challenged us to a friendly.”

“Who really issued the challenge?”

“That,” admitted Rouse, “I don’t quite know. It appears to have originated from Mr Seymour himself, and to have been received by Mr Morley—probably in a parchment envelope handed up on a silver salver.”

“Never mind,” said Terence. “Let’s play them.”

“Oh yes, we’ll play them. Only I’m trying to reason out what’s in the wind. You see, Roe is in Seymour’s.”

“True. I’d forgotten that.”

139“And the chances are that if he wants to captain the side the other fellows in Seymour’s will have something to say about it.”

“I suppose they want to play us because we’re the strongest house and they rather fancy their weight.”

“One would imagine that was the idea. Only neither Betteridge nor Saville seems to know much about it.”

Rouse suddenly leaned forward.

“Nick,” said he, “there’s villainy afoot.”


“Yes. I don’t know what that means. It’s a phrase of Henry’s concoction. We might get hold of a cheap dictionary and get an interpretation of the words.... Anyway, that’s what he says—and it’s impossible to listen to Henry for long without coming to the conclusion that there’s something in what he says.”

“What is the villainy?”

“Henry is now out on the trail trying to find out. But his judgment arises from a variety of facts and certain suspicions.”

He paused and for a while there was silence.

“As a matter of fact,” said Terence, at last, “there’s something on your mind, old top, and you may as well tell me what it is.”

Rouse succumbed.

He leaned forward, almost as if grateful for this touching invitation.

“Well, it’s this. Supposing the chaps get tired of all this? Supposing an agitator or two start moving about amongst them, saying: ‘Hang it all, what does it matter to you or me who the captain is? Let’s get our footer’? Supposing the masters get on to them and say: ‘Your schooldays are the happiest time of your life and they will never come again. Why starve yourselves of all that makes them most worth while just because of a silly prejudice?’ 140You see what I mean? Supposing they give in?”

“Well, supposing they do?”

“Nothing,” said Rouse, in a small voice; “only it would make me look rather a fool.”

“Also,” said Terence, “in the light of all they’ve said it would show that they hadn’t got much respect for the traditions of the school. You still don’t understand the temper of the school in the least or you wouldn’t talk like that. Why on earth should they give in?”

“Because,” said Rouse, “it’s my belief that there’s somebody at work trying to make them. Why,” he demanded, after a moment’s pause, “are the Head and his abominable son so suspiciously quiet? Nearly three weeks of term have gone. Why are they making no attempt to bring the chaps to heel as promised? Soon the headmasters of other schools and the parents of some of the fellows here will be writing to the Head to ask why we are not playing footer. I tell you they’re sitting quiet because they’re waiting for something to happen. I believe Henry’s right. There’s villainy afoot.”

He glared at Terence challengingly.

In the following silence there came the sound of footsteps in the passage and both looked up. The footsteps were stopping at the study door. There came a knock.

“Come in,” said Rouse.

They turned in their chairs to see who came. There was a second’s dramatic wait. Then the door moved open and the visitor came in. He looked at them over the tops of his spectacles and made slowly for the table, and reaching it, he stood there looking first at one and then at the other.

“What is it, Henry?” asked Rouse.

“It’s this,” said Henry. “All that I told you is true. This evening Coles is moving into Seymour’s. 141He says that it’s an order from the Head.” He stopped and watched the effect of this news upon them. And then he said: “All Coles’ friends are in Seymour’s. Of course you know that.”

Still they made no comment. They were only looking at each other significantly.

Henry made ready to drop his bomb.

“That’s enough,” said he. “It makes a lot of things clear to me. But it’s not all. I told you Coles had a hold over that kid Carr. Well, Carr’s going over to Seymour’s with him—and he’s very nearly blubbing about it. That’s all.”

Rouse had struck the table with his fist. The mystery of the challenge was at last transparent to him.

“But ... Carr?” said Terence. “Why? Why Carr? Why’s he going?”

“Because,” said Henry, “Coles says that he was put in his care by Carr’s own people, and the Head believes him.”

“Well, what’s Coles going for himself? What’s the idea? Why is it?”

Henry drew himself up. His eyes were blazing behind the round windows of his spectacles. He clenched his hands.

“What’s he going for?” said he. “It’s as plain as a pikestaff. He’s going to join hands with the enemy. He knows that he hasn’t a chance here, in the very house where Rouse is loved most, and so he’s going. Coles has got something up his sleeve.”

“Henry,” said Terence, “you may be right. I believe you are. But there’s one thing you don’t know.”

“What?” said Henry, as if unable to believe the accusation.

“This. If Coles is reckoning on playing upon the feelings of the chaps who want their Rugger, then Smythe has got something up his sleeve that’ll knock Coles silly.”



Christopher Woolf Roe was in a painful predicament. Behind him, urging him on, he felt the hot breath of impending paternal wrath, and knew that if he failed in this, the most important duty his father had ever set him, he would be disgraced; as likely as not he would at no far distant date be cut off with the proverbial shilling. Already his father was growing impatient. The notion that he was having to await the school’s pleasure before securing their obedience was to him exceedingly displeasing. The exemplary patience he had displayed when first the helpfulness of Coles had come before his notice had not proved of an abiding nature. Moreover, the gradual attention of outsiders was being attracted to the school. The scratching of their fixtures for the season had been commented upon, and he felt that unless evidence of the successful nature of his handling of this situation were forthcoming very shortly his dignity would be seriously endangered. Of all this his unhappy son was fully aware, yet he could see before him only the adamant forbearance of a school unanimously resolute, and the keen dislike in which he was personally held was not at all encouraging.

Altogether things were rotten.

Coles, however, had certainly been exceptionally decent, and his charm of manner had weighed a good deal with the Head too. There was comfort to be gained from the certainty that Coles knew what 143was what. Coles was a very good fellow. He was very grateful to Coles.

“Leave it to me,” Coles had said, and he had left it to Coles willingly.

Standing in the centre of a small group Coles was striving one afternoon to justify this touching confidence. He had spoken at length. Ultimately he looked round the solemn countenances of those about him to judge the effect of his words. Except upon the faces of his two cronies, who, since they were not prominent footballers, were not of great account, he could not see one hopeful sign. For the rest there was a stiffly decorous silence. At last Saville, who, as one of the only two old colours in Seymour’s, had been leaning gracefully against a wall, raised his voice.

“The point at issue is this,” he announced. “You can’t get away from the fact that the Head has insulted our house by thrusting his son on us like this, and we’re very sore. So far we haven’t even had the face to turn out a house team at footer simply because we were afraid that Roe might want to play. Now some misguided idiot—apparently Seymour himself—has gone to Morley in secret and arranged a challenge which Morley’s have accepted, and after that it’s clearly up to us to play. But we don’t want Roe on the side, and we’re not going to have him.”

“Oh, come,” said Coles, plausibly enough. “Be broad-minded about it. You don’t suppose Roe’s very happy about all this, do you? It isn’t a very jolly position for a fellow. I’ve had a few chats with him, and I can tell you he’d far rather not be here. What’s the use of denying ourselves even house Rugger just to spite him out of a game? What’s wrong with playing for the house? Most of us are nearly eating our hearts out for a game.”

“You haven’t got much to grumble about,” said 144Saville pertly. “You had two games for Morley’s before you came here. And now that I come to think of it, why did you come here? Can you tell us that?”

Coles shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ve never been able to find out. But it’s my personal belief that it was just an idea of the Head’s to break up what he thought was Rouse’s clique.”

“Why didn’t he move Nick, then?”

Coles was unable to reply. He made a little further play with his shoulders.

“I’ll tell you why it was,” said Saville. “It was because, having shoved his confounded son in here, he wanted to build up a strong house side for him to have at his back. And he pounced on you for a start because he thought you might be amenable to reason. A little later on he’ll move someone else in here, so that eventually Rouse will be left with a dud house team, and we in Seymour’s shall have the nucleus of a school Fifteen. He thinks we shall be as pleased as Punch about that and keep on clapping his son on the back every time we see him.”

Coles shook his head.

“I don’t think that for a minute.”

“Well, I do,” opined Betteridge, from a modest position on the outskirts of the group.

Coles turned and looked at him as if pointing him out with his beak-like nose.

“And,” added the interrupter, “so do a good many other people.”

“You’re all making a great mistake,” said Coles. “In years to come you’ll be sorry you mucked your Rugger like this. Personally I was always in favour of Rouse as skipper, and I think that to have brought his own son here was a beastly thing for the Head to have done, and so does Roe himself. But that’s no reason for cutting off your own nose to spite your face. It’s agreed that we don’t lose any dignity by 145indulging in house friendlies, and if we’re going to play a match let’s get out our best side. I believe Roe is a very hot forward, and even if we won’t let him be captain that’s no reason why the poor blighter shouldn’t have a game. He needn’t be skipper.”

“Ah!” said Saville, “that’s just it. He’ll want to be.”

Coles made a sly gesture with his hand.

“You leave it to me. I’ll have a word with him. He’ll quite see your point of view. We’ll fix that up all right.”

“We should like him to come on the field walking a modest distance behind everybody else,” said Betteridge. “That’s what we should like. You might tell him that, will you?”

“You leave that to me,” repeated Coles magnanimously. “He’ll quite see the sense of not forcing himself to the front. And I do think it’d be a pretty rotten exhibition of sportsmanship to tell him he can’t even play on the side at all.”

He paused and looked round them blandly. Nobody responded to his glances; every head had turned instead towards the big clock over the school which was striking the hour, and next moment the group had swiftly dispersed and Coles was left alone looking after them. He was himself in no special hurry. As a matter of fact, he had an appointment with the house master.

At last he slowly pursed his lips and nodded his head.

They would let Roe play. Half the battle had been won.

It was a day to be appreciated, and in token of the fact the whole of Morley’s were ranged along one touch-line and the greater part of Seymour’s along the other, whilst sprinkled here and there in the crowd were representatives of lesser houses expressing 146their opinion on this game in the detached manner of disinterested onlookers. There were also a couple of spare balls being kicked about, and even those who had never the patience to watch houses other than their own playing had come running to the scene at the prospect of getting in a few kicks themselves. After all, in these days good Rugger was rare. Except where Morley’s were concerned, there had not been any great zest in the house friendlies played to date. It had been too evident that these games would not lead to anything.

But a trial of strength between Morley’s and Seymour’s, with the latter strengthened by the inclusion of Coles at the expense of the former, gave promise of being a little out of the ordinary. Besides Rouse was playing on one side, and it was understood that Roe might be discovered upon the other. There was a chance of the two meeting.

“Perhaps,” one young man said hopefully, “perhaps Rouse’ll scrag him.”

There came at last a significant stir along the crowded ropes. The reason was apparent. Morley’s were coming out.

From the stone steps beside the cloisters from which the chosen of Seymour’s would presently appear Coles had stood watching, and now he turned suddenly to those below and nodded to them.

“Morley’s have gone out,” said he. “Are we all here?” There was no immediate answer. He glanced at the young man beside him. “Come along, Roe. We’ll move off.”

The words were scarcely above a whisper, but Roe turned obediently and proceeded into the open beside him, seemingly proud and happily at his ease. Out on to the gravel path he went, and then quite suddenly he was struck by a curious silence behind him, and he turned and cautiously looked over his shoulder. Then he understood. The team were 147huddled in a group at the bottom of the steps, staring after him dully, very still and very haughty, and not one fellow amongst them all had so much as moved his foot.

He reached out nervously and plucked at Coles’ arm.

“I say ... stop ... I say ... they aren’t coming! They haven’t moved!” The peculiar stupidity of his position struck him then with force. “We’re all alone.”

Coles stopped and spun on his heel. Next moment he had darted back down the steps, but Roe stood like a derelict pig where he had been left, frozen with astonishment, looking first towards the field where Morley’s were waiting and then towards the team who wouldn’t come. From every possible direction boys were staring at him rudely. He knew the horrifying shame of some scene-shifter slow in removing himself from the stage and discovered in a ridiculous attitude at the lifting of the curtain.

Coles had darted into that flock like an angry shepherd, but they stubbornly refused to scatter.

“What is it? Why don’t you come? Morley’s are waiting.” He made an impatient gesture. “What’s the trouble?”

Betteridge replied. He was standing with folded arms, Napoleonically, outside the changing-room, and he spoke emphatically:

“It’s only a matter of form. But isn’t it usual for the captain of the side to go out first?”

“Great Scott, what does it matter? Isn’t the game the thing that counts most? As a matter of fact, you may not know it, but the Head’s outside. He’s been standing over there in the corner for the last ten minutes and he’s waiting to see us come out. The reason Roe went out with me was because if he didn’t the Head would be as wild as anything. He’s only walking with me so as to satisfy the Head. 148He doesn’t care twopence whether he’s captain of the side or not.”

“And what’s the idea of you going in front?” asked Betteridge, and his tone was very cold. “Until to-day the supposition has been that Saville was captain of footer in Seymour’s.”

There was a moment’s ominous silence.

Coles stared at him fixedly. At last he answered:

“I see what’s in the wind. A little petty jealousy. As a matter of fact, I believe I’m the senior man in the First Fifteen here, and I saw no particular need to wait for anyone else to go first. All I wanted was to prevent giving the idea that Roe was shoving himself to the front.”

“The understanding was,” said Betteridge, “that Roe was going to walk behind. As for you being senior in the First Fifteen, there isn’t any First Fifteen! All we’re concerned with here is the house side, and Saville happens to be the elected captain.”

“It doesn’t matter a cuss to me,” snapped Coles, “who walks on first. It isn’t a confounded Court procession, is it? My idea is to get a game of Rugger, and you raving idiots are going the right way to get house Rugger stopped altogether by the Head. You can bet your life that if the Head sees Roe walking on all alone and behind everybody else, when he’s been appointed captain, he’ll have something rather interesting to say about it.” He made a sudden angry gesture. His hot temper was rising swiftly to the surface. “Personally, I’m going out to the field how I like and I’m not going to wait for anyone else to tell me when I’m to go, and if by the time I get to the half-way line you chaps are still crouching down here, I’ll tell Rouse the match is off.”

“I think he’ll understand that as soon as he sees you walking arm-in-arm with Roe,” said Saville, speaking for the first time. “And I rather imagine you’ll be chased off the field. It may turn out that these seats will be the best after all for watching that part of the show.”


149“What the deuce do you mean?” cried Coles, in a sudden scream of wrath. “Do you mean to say I’m trying to curry favour with the Head?”

“I mean to say,” said Saville, “that it was your idea that Roe should be allowed to play, and we agreed on the distinct understanding that he wasn’t going to be captain. Now it’s your idea that he should walk in front, and I wonder you don’t want to go and sprinkle roses in front of him as he goes.”

“It’s for the sake of the game, you utter ass! What do I care who goes in front! I want my Rugger.”

“Then you can jolly well have it,” snapped Betteridge. “And you can play it in your own backyard.”

Coles turned towards him, and for one moment he looked as if he could have jumped down and attacked him with his fists. But there came instead a new diversion. Across the steps there swept the shadow of the Head. Then he stood magisterially before them, and finally he singled out Coles.

“What is the delay?” said he. “What are you waiting for?”

Before Coles could answer Saville had stepped forward.

“The match is scratched, sir,” said he. “I am just going out to apologise to Rouse for keeping them waiting so long.”

He ran up the steps and went out into the open. The Head turned and stared after him indignantly. His own intended words had been taken out of his mouth. He had meant only to ascertain without doubt that this scene was on account of his son before himself stepping in and forbidding play. He 150had been forestalled. Saville was trotting towards the touch-line. The ranks of expectant onlookers opened and let him through. The Head saw Rouse come to meet him, saw him lift his hand and rest it upon Saville’s shoulder, watched them as they spoke. Then Rouse had turned to those nearest to him and explained. The air became very still. Saville had been so clearly the forerunner of sensation. Heads were turned towards the unhappy Roe still standing in splendid isolation on the gravel path, then back to Saville. Finally all eyes settled upon Rouse. He was collecting his team regretfully and there was something in his manner that showed how sorry he was that this had happened. Then Morley’s were walking off the field.

All this the Head watched with set eyes, and at last he turned again to that sullen group at the bottom of the steps, regarded them for a moment, then snapped out his dictum:

“Find Mr Nicholson for me, one of you. Tell him that I wish to speak to him in my study at once.”

And all the while Coles stood beside the Headmaster, staring dully into the distance. For this was the first round and he had lost.

It was Betteridge who found Toby and told him, and with just a nod of the head Harley’s games master went sorrowfully along the pathway toward the Head’s room and disappeared through the old oak door, whilst the crowd who had been expecting a dashing game of Rugby football turned almost disconsolately to watch him go. The next five minutes were full of the calm that precedes the outburst of a storm. No one so much as kicked a football into the air. They could only wait now for the worst, knowing that somehow or other the Head was going to hit back.

Those dull five minutes were barely passed before 151Toby came into sight again, walking just as solemnly as before. Saville was moving his way and Toby stopped him. His voice was very tense.

“The Head has just told me that after to-day he forbids house friendlies, or any football of any kind, until the captain he selected is recognised by the school. The fellows have chosen a hunger strike and so he intends that it shall be a proper one. He’s hit back with your own weapon.” He paused and looked at Saville earnestly. “It’s going to be a lean year in earnest now. And I only wish I could see where it’s going to end.”



There is splendour in storm and flood and tempest, and no man regrets that now and again in life thunder and lightning spoil some chosen holiday. But those long grey days that come in stretches and blot the calendar for weeks on end with the dreary misery of heartless and unbroken skies are only mean and uninspiring, and they have no single use. They are discontented days and they bring with them discontent.

The first thunder-burst of a revolution had come to Harley as a vast excitement, and those who had no real part to play in it had stood at their windows watching the threatening majesty of its power unfold. But days had passed, and with them had departed much of a schoolboy’s first intense delight in bold rebellion, so that when the time of cheering and singing had gone, and only grey days empty and wearisome remained, a sulky discontent slowly wrapped Harley in its mantle. All days were grey days. There had been no school Rugger and each week was devoid of interest. Saturdays were not holidays but hollow days. The only interest that had helped to keep Harleyans awake out of school hours had been house friendlies. Now these had gone from their ken. The Head had hit straight and hard.

Directly Coles heard the news he smiled again, for he knew that this blow would provide a first step towards the school’s collapse. For a minute their 153pride would steady them. Members of the Fifteen who were suffering most would set the example, but by degrees fellows would be found in favour of giving in. The call of Rugger in their blood would be too strong. He and his friends would move quietly amongst these wobblers and encourage them in their notions. In this way a reactionary party would begin to grow, snowball fashion, each newcomer persuading some crony of his own to think with him. Then would come Coles’ chance. Fellows would look round for a leader, some bright spirit who could show them a way out of their dilemma that would be in keeping with their dignity. That bright spark would be forthcoming without delay. Coles would be the man of the hour. He was the best drop-kick in the school. He was an old colour. He would be their philosopher.

“Let the Head have his way to this extent,” he would say. “Let Roe be the official captain. It will be too late to print cards with his name on this season, and many outside the school will never know. And I will be secretary. I will guide his hand. I will choose the teams. I will award the colours. We will end the term gloriously. The Head will think he has won, and he will be affable and amenable to reason, but in reality we shall be laughing up our sleeves, for the captain of footer will have to do just what his secretary tells him.”

Coles was very cautious. He did not allow the fact that time for these plans to mature was short to interfere with him. It was not yet half-term and he knew that the school’s collapse once started would come suddenly. When it came he would be ready. But he must not arouse suspicion by attempting to hurry things on their way. He watched from afar, and he kept Roe quiet. Only his friends were subtly busying themselves with intrigue. And whilst Coles watched and waited, that terrible 154listlessness that is the forerunner of a dry-rot was spreading over Harley. Only Morley’s kept up their heads. In Mainwright’s Smythe tried to lead his men in the proud path, but it was too much for one man. Presently, to stand about at corners and kick one’s heels became a habit. Boredom became a plague and the infection spread.

Carr felt it more, perhaps, than any other boy in Seymour’s because he was constantly in Coles’ society and was borne down by the shadow of it. Football would have been his one great relaxation. Rugger would have helped him to throw off the yoke. It would have brought him more into touch with fellows like Rouse and Terence Nicholson, whose very presence filled a room with optimism.

Henry Hope did not desert him, but he clearly considered him a perplexing and unsatisfactory young man, and he seemed to regret his silence over the thing that mattered most; nevertheless, he persevered daily. The fact that he had at least some kind of hold over Coles, if he could only get the opportunity to use it, was, moreover, a considerable comfort to him.

These grey days had their effect too upon Saville, and on one of them he wandered wretchedly into Rouse’s study and stood like a man with a hump on his back before the trio whom he found there.

“Don’t stand there with that weight on your shoulders,” said Rouse. “Take it off and put it down in a corner.”

Saville straightened his back bravely.

“It’s the hump,” said he. “It’s enough to give anyone the hump. Things are rotten bad.”

He paused as if to let this information sink in. The others did not deny it.

Saville sighed. “It’s not so bad for me, or chaps like me. What is so frightful is having to stand by and watch this dry-rot setting in amongst all the 155middle school chaps. It’s like watching a lot of strikers being starved into submission.”

Rouse glanced at him significantly.

“You think they’ll give in?”

The other hesitated. “No. At the moment I can’t think of any particular fellow who’s specially likely to give in, and of course it’s no use just one or two giving in, anyway. But you see what I mean. At this very moment we’re losing. We asked for this fight and it’s going against us. We’re getting more than we’re giving. And that weighs on the chaps’ minds. They’re just crazy to hit back. It was different before. House friendlies were a sort of safety valve. Fellows who were longing for a school match could at least put their hearts and souls into a house game. You saw how they turned out in the hope of seeing Seymour’s play Morley’s. It was pretty nearly pathetic. And in a sense I feel that mine is the responsibility. It was because Betteridge and I wouldn’t play under that yahoo’s captaincy that house Rugger was stopped. And I can tell you I’m precious sorry about it all. We’re being absolutely sat on, and the chaps can see it. Isn’t there any way at all of getting a bit of our own back? Isn’t there anything we can do?”

Rouse made no answer. He had been listening to Saville attentively, and once he had nodded his head in total agreement. Otherwise he had made no move. Now he turned to the two young men who were sitting with him, one upon the table and one upon the window-sill, and looked at them inquiringly. Saville was at a loss. He stared first at Smythe and then at Terence Nicholson, and finally at Rouse. On the face of each he perceived the same significant expression.

“You may think I’m mad,” said he resentfully, “but it’s perfectly true all the same.”

“I know it is, old horse,” said Rouse.

156“Then, dash it all,” repeated Saville, “isn’t there anything we can do?”

Still Rouse made no move. He just looked at Saville steadily.

“There is,” said he. “And Smythe has done it. Take a seat!”

“Where?” demanded Saville, looking mournfully round the study.

“Sit on that box. There’s something we want you to know. The safety valve of which you spoke has, as you say, gone bust. Let there be no panic. Smythe has another up his sleeve. As soon as there are sufficient pennies in the hat he will produce it.” He paused. “We told Smythe to scratch our fixtures for the season. He obeyed except in one respect. He did not scratch the Rainhurst match.”

The effect of these words was remarkable.

Saville rose from his box in the stiff, unnatural manner of a man under the influence of hypnotism. Then he lifted his hand and pointed at Smythe with an extended forefinger:

“You didn’t?”


Saville sat back, and for a little while he leaned against the wall with a distant smile, seeming to be recalling some memory of the long ago. At last his lips parted and he spoke in a half whisper:

“The Rainhurst match!”

He leaned forward. The other three were looking at him in appreciation.

Smythe began to explain. “I looked ahead and I saw what things would be like if the worst came true. My idea was that if, in the end, it had to be done, we could scratch that match last of all, but I decided to hang on to the fixture. I said nothing to anyone until a fortnight or so ago, when the Rainhurst secretary wrote and said that he’d heard we’d been scratching a lot of matches, and 157did our fixture with them still stand. Then I consulted Nicholson. And he wanted to ask Rouse. So we all three discussed it and I wrote back.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said,” admitted Smythe, “that we should be there.”

The silence was acute. At last Rouse broke it.

“We realised what you are realising now, old sportsman—the danger of a rot and the value of a safety valve. You ask what we can do to hit back. Well, we voluntarily scratched our fixture list. The Head has gone one better and forbidden house games. We shall go one better still. Our defiant answer will be the playing of the match of the season. The Rainhurst match will come off.”

“How can we do it?”

“It’s not very difficult,” said Terence. “Rainhurst is within cycling distance. There is also quite a good service of trains. On the afternoon of the second Saturday in the second half of term the First Fifteen will simply go to Rainhurst by various secret ways and meet there. The Rainhurst team will be on the field and the game will be played. Then we shall all find separate ways home. The Head will probably never know. Who’s going to miss us?”

“But how about the Rainhurst Head? He’s bound to know what’s the matter here. Won’t he smell a rat?”

“Not,” said Smythe, “unless Roe is on the field, and then we should all smell one. And we can do that without going to Rainhurst.”

Saville considered the matter from every side. At last he looked up again.

“What I mean is, he must know that we’ve scratched all our matches. Won’t he wonder a bit? Supposing he writes to the Head and mentions it?”

“Why should he? When their secretary wrote 158to me the other week he just said he’d heard that we’d scratched some of our matches. Was the Rainhurst match to stand good? He didn’t say anything about the Head asking.”

So at last Saville emitted a hoarse chuckle of delight: “Glory be! What a terrific rag! But it can be improved on. Why not form up in a body outside the school and march there?”

“So soon as there’s any procession,” put in Rouse, “I always cease to take any interest in things. Nothing causes me more suffering than to be called upon to process.”

“Besides,” said Terence, “that would only be asking for trouble. Someone would be expelled.”

“Also it is too far,” observed Smythe. “The idea is to get there in a fit state to play football. We don’t want to reach Rainhurst on our hands and knees.”

“It had never occurred to me that this was going to be possible,” said Saville. “In my wildest dreams I never imagined anything like this. Have you chaps been keeping this to yourselves all this time?”

“A short while ago,” said Rouse, “I was beginning to brood, and so they told me. Now it’s you who are beginning to brood, so we’ve told you. We’ve been keeping it as a kind of tonic for those who get downhearted. The fewer people who know, the safer the secret.”

“Only,” said Terence, “it’s getting near the time now when we ought to tell some of the chaps. There ought not to be any harm now in letting the news filter through to some of the young ’uns. If they’re getting restless it’s just the kind of thing to steady them and keep them solid.”

“It’ll be our saving,” said Saville. “If this gets known, the Head’s idea of wearing them down hasn’t got an earthly.”

Smythe leaned forward.

159“There is one other point. We’ve got to consider what the Head will do if he finds out, and I think we can take it he will. The best part of the school will go to Rainhurst to see the match and that will give the show away.... Then what will he do? Whom will he drop on?”

“Me,” said Rouse, in a meek voice.

“Precisely. It will be you, and we’ve got to guard against that. We must stand together. If he blames you, every man jack must step forward and take his share of the blame. I shall say that the idea was mine. Terence will declare that he made the plans, so on and thusly. We shall all agree that the only part you took in the affair was to captain the side. And if he tries to expel you——”

“We’ll cut his throat,” said Saville.

Then he rose to his feet and stretched himself.

“I feel a different man. I should very much like to burst into song. Tell me, is there any objection to my repeating this to anyone else?—Betteridge, for example? I should absolutely love to. There’s a touch of the dramatic about it, and I should just enjoy laying myself out to break this news to him in my best style. He’s decidedly broody too, if that’s the chief qualification for admission to the secret circle.”

“Yes, I don’t see why you shouldn’t tell Betteridge,” said Rouse, and hesitated. “But I shouldn’t tell anyone else in Seymour’s just for the moment.” He looked at Saville shrewdly, and Saville caught his meaning and nodded his head. Then Rouse rose and stood dreamily with one hand extended as if to indicate the beauty of the distant landscape.

“I seem to see a certain Saturday afternoon. There will be an unwonted calm about the old school. The Head—God bless him!—will be sleeping by the fire. His carpet slippers will be dangling 160from his toes. His waistcoat will be comfortably loosened.... Suddenly he will wake with a start and he will be struck by the eerie stillness everywhere about him. He will rise and look out of the window. At first he will see nothing. He will climb to a window on the top floor, and then with a kind of telescopic eye he will see everything at once. He will look along every road that leads towards Rainhurst and he will see several small clouds of dust. Dimly he will make out the figures of all kinds and conditions of Harley fellows footing it along at a good pace, some even riding bicycles or getting lifts in carts. He will see the railway station crowded with the chaps who can afford to buy railway tickets. He will see trains on the move with our chaps leaning out and waving coloured handkerchiefs at him. It will be like a Derby day. At last he will send for the bursar. ‘Look here,’ he will say, ‘What is all that commotion? What’s on?’ The bursar will look at him wisely. ‘Didn’t you know?’ he’ll say. ‘There’s a very big match on to-day. The school are playing Rainhurst.’ The only thing I regret,” he added, “is that by going to Rainhurst to play I shall not be able to be present in the Head’s room at that moment.”

Saville jumped suddenly forward and flung out his hand.

“Look!... Betteridge! He’s walking by the window. I must go and——”

He never finished. He just made a delighted gesture of farewell, and was gone.

At last Rouse turned again to his companions.

“The safety valve is open,” said he. “By to-morrow the welcome whisper should be passing from lip to lip.”

A careful onlooker casting back his mind in after years to the ten days that intervened between the 161greatest depth of the school’s dejection and its complete recovery has said that the countenance of the average Harleyan of that day was to him the face of a good barometer showing a steady rise from storm to set-fair by regular upward moves from day to day.

From the moment when Rouse, by breaking the news to Saville, had, as it were, thrown that message like a pebble into the pool of Harley’s dejection, the rippling circles of water that showed just where it had sunk spread with almost mathematical precision until the outermost circle had reached the outermost boys in the school. The countenance of the school was, therefore, more than a barometer. It was a graph, showing exactly how far the whisper reached each day.

The manner in which the quickly passing word somehow avoided masters was enigmatical. It may be that some few of them knew without seeming to know. If so, there was not one enemy amongst them. For all the groups of boys that the Head might have seen any day standing about school deep in some earnest discussion, their eyes newly bright, all symptoms of their depression vanished, he never guessed the truth, so that each little band of friends were able to make their own arrangements for the journey to Rainhurst on that great day that was surely coming without one single obstructing order from the Head.

Directly the school had reassembled after half-term Rouse sent for Henry Hope.

“Henry,” said he to Terence, “can always indicate to a man the temper of the school in a few well-chosen words. Henry knows everybody. In short, what Henry thinks to-day Harley will think to-morrow.”

Henry appeared before him without delay, and was interrogated.

162“As far as I know,” said he, “there’s nobody now who hasn’t heard.”

“Has there been upraised,” demanded Rouse, “one single dissentient voice?”

“There has not,” responded Henry; “except in places where it doesn’t matter.”

Rouse nodded his head thoughtfully.

“As far as you know, after moving about amongst all classes, you can safely say that the plan has the whole-hearted support of the school? Anyone who split now would most likely be lynched?”

“Why, sure,” said Henry.

“There is one other point. Do you think that amongst the rank and file who had been hit hardest by the great staleness of life up to half-term there is a general convalescence? Has the fever passed? In other words, are those sad eyes of which you spoke to me a while back now shining with the light of a great enthusiasm?”

“Everybody seems frightfully bucked.”

Rouse nodded once again, and this time with an air of finality.

“Thank you very much for the very thorough manner in which you have carried out your investigations, Detective Hope,” said he. “You have been of the utmost service to Harley. It is only by keeping one’s finger continuously upon the pulse of the school that one can really hope to save them from their melancholia.” He turned. “That being so, Nick,” he observed, “we will go visit Smythe and he can commence operations forthwith.”

It was late that evening that Smythe, on his round of selected studies, reached the little room that Coles called his own. Coles did not seem surprised to see him. He rose hospitably and produced a chair from a dark corner, turned to the fire and poked at it lustily.

163Smythe, however, proceeded to the business of the day without hesitation.

“You’ve heard about the scheme that I’ve come about already, of course. All I’m doing now is interviewing the team that Rouse has picked. It’s a novel way of acting secretary. I’ll just show you this.”

He produced from his pocket a piece of paper. It bore the names of fifteen Harleyans, who had been selected to play in the great match of the year, and the name of Coles was included. Smythe drew his attention to the fact.

“I just want to know,” said he, “that you’re quite willing to turn out, and I want your word of honour that in the event of there being a big row about this when it’s found out you’ll stand with the team and take a fair share of any blame that may be going. I ask this because the probability is that the Head may try to drop on Rouse and make him the scapegoat. I also want your word of honour that you will say nothing and do nothing that could lead to this secret being discovered by the Head or any beak at all.”

Coles looked at him oddly.

“You want my word of honour? Why mine?”

“We’re asking for everybody’s,” said Smythe coldly. “You needn’t be alarmed.”

“But why? What makes that necessary? Who do you suppose might give it away?”

“We’re asking this of each fellow who’s going to play, purely to avoid giving offence to any one man. The temper of the school at present doesn’t permit of taking risks. That’s all. Do you mind giving what we ask?”

“No,” said Coles at last. “Why should I? What’s all the suspicion about?” He paused, glancing at Smythe resentfully. “What is it you want me to promise?”

164Smythe repeated it.

He jerked his head.

“All right. I’ll give my word.”

Smythe solemnly put a little tick against his name on the list, stayed a few moments talking over arrangements, and finally took his departure.

In the corridor outside he came upon two boys. One he identified without difficulty as Henry Hope, but as he passed Henry drew his companion into the shadow of the wall behind him. For Henry had just made a regrettable discovery. He had reported that nobody of importance existed in Harley who was not delighted at the prospect of the Rainhurst match, and he had overlooked one case, a case that had only just come properly to his notice. There was a young man in Harley who showed no pleasure at the arrangements made, who seemed, on the contrary, smitten with some foreboding. The young man would give no explanation. He would offer no definite opinion. It was merely a case in which the symptoms of depression had increased rather than decreased, and were it not for one outstanding fact the matter might have been exceptional, and therefore of no real importance. But Henry could not lose sight of that one fact. The young man concerned was Coles’ fag. Henry would have to watch out.



The men of Rainhurst were undisguisedly perplexed. For the last two hours Harley fellows had been arriving at the school, not openly, but in mysterious driblets, looking about them as if in fear of being spotted and yet decidedly proud to be on view. Moreover, as each party had arrived they had been greeted by their predecessors with cordial hand-shakings as if by way of congratulation on their safe arrival.

Now they were all gathered together in one great concourse just inside the entrance to the school, whilst one amongst them, a strangely thin boy with tremendous spectacles, stood out from the crowd and from a position of vantage in the roadway was peering into the distance. Whenever one of the Harley Fifteen appeared in sight this boy turned to the waiting throng, lifted his hand in dignity above his head as if for silence, and in a loud clear voice announced the gentleman’s name, whereupon there followed a momentary silence until the player himself appeared at the gate, when he was greeted with tumultuous applause.

It was all exceedingly odd.

The First Fifteen were coming, too, not in the appointed brake from the station but just as the boys themselves had come, clandestinely and by various routes, some by train, and others by cycle or by trap. The captain of Rainhurst, who was watching it all with a frankly curious stare, had never seen the like.

166As time passed, however, it became evident that there was still some further treat in store for those who were waiting at the gates. There was that in their watchful attitude that one may see in the vast crowd at any state procession that cheers its favourites as they pass, yet waits in tense expectancy, keeping its greatest outburst for the great one whom they have really come to see.

There became noticeable, too, an increased alertness in the manner of the boy who was making the announcements. He peered more frequently and rather more impatiently up and down the road. Sometimes he left his position to secure a better view from the other side of the way.

Clearly the arrival of someone of real importance to them was expected at any moment.

It came at last. The looker-out, who, though wholly self-appointed, seemed to be treated with a tolerant courtesy and some respect by his fellows, darted suddenly towards them and threw up his arm stiffly erect above his head, pointing the way to heaven.

The silence was immediate.

“They’re coming,” said he. “Look out, it’s Rouse!”

In the respectful hush that had fallen upon the crowd there could be heard distinctly a noise like the beating of a drum. Boys turned, one to the other, in surprise. There was a minute’s keen expectancy. At last solution came. Rouse hove into view, not as one might have expected a popular hero to have appeared, nobly upon the shoulders of his comrades, but hunched upon a bicycle, and the noise accompanying him was not the beating of a drum: it was the bumping of a punctured back tyre on the roadway. His long legs were driving the pedals with laborious care, and between the strokes his knees were rising under his armpits. He was flushed with exertion and 167suffering from acute self-consciousness, and in this manner he turned in at the gate and came unsteadily along the gravel path.

Now when Rouse had said that so soon as he was invited to process he lost all interest in events he had spoken truly. He was never more hopelessly uncomfortable than when he was the centre of admiration or the object of prolonged applause, and during the present term he had had more of this than he could manage. When he had first come into sight his mind had, moreover, been so concentrated upon the importance of making the turn at the gate without colliding with the wall that he did not properly understand what all the cheering was about. He found out quite suddenly, and in that moment, looking along the deep ranks of his applauding followers and realising suddenly that it was all for him and that he was once again the unwilling hero of the hour, he lost his nerve entirely, slowed to a snail’s pace and suddenly fell off.

He stood up, not knowing where to look or what to do to stop their cheering. Smythe came to his side and Rouse turned to him gratefully.

“I say, do tell them to shut up, will you?”

He was sorry to notice that Smythe brushed the point aside.

“Where on earth have you been?” he was demanding. “I thought you were coming by trap?”

Rouse considered the point absent-mindedly.

“I thought so once, too. It seems a long time ago. I can hardly remember the time when I wasn’t sitting on that bike.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. That has yet to be discovered. But when twenty minutes had gone by and there was still no trap we decided we’d got to do something about it. Every bicycle for hire in Harley had been booked up a week ago, so there was nothing for it 168but to try our luck at cottages, and at one I managed to borrow this.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Until the old man of the house had lifted me into the saddle and given me a lusty shove off down the hill I wasn’t at all sure that I could ride a bicycle, but once the thing was fairly under way I didn’t dare to fall off for fear I should never be able to get on again, so I just kept on pushing the pedals round, and until I got inside these gates I thought of nothing else but sticking on. It was all that cheering upset me.”

“Something upset you I could plainly see,” said Smythe. “I thought you’d ridden over a brick.”

Rouse turned with a haughty gesture and cast a contemplative eye upon the bicycle.

“It’s been making that bumping noise ever since I started. I don’t know whether there’s anything the matter with it.”

“It’s punctured,” said Smythe instructively.

“Is it? Quite likely. I’m no real judge of a bicycle, but I should think it’s got everything the matter with it that it could have, including mumps on the front tyre. Nick couldn’t borrow one at all, so he stopped a kid who passed us on the road and they’ve been taking turn and turn about ever since, one of them riding and the other balancing on one foot on the step. I’ve seen worse trick cyclists at a music hall. They’re both walking up the hill at present. The kid offered to walk all the way and let Nick come on, but Nick said: ‘No fear. We’ve both got to be at this match and they’ll wait for me, but they won’t wait for you.’”

He smiled reminiscently, then turned sharply on his heel. The cheering had broken out anew. A small boy eaten up with pride was wearily riding a bicycle into the school grounds, and as they watched, a tall fair-haired young man dropped off the step 169and began to walk somewhat stiffly through the crowd.

“That’s Nick,” said Smythe. “We’re all here now.”

Next moment another young man was at his elbow. A voice had interrupted them apologetically. They turned and saw that it was the Rainhurst captain, and with a slow whimsical smile Rouse held out his hand.

“I say, is this true? One of your chaps has just been telling me. Do you mean to say you’ve come here absolutely on your own? Has your footer been stopped? Don’t they know anything at all about it at the school?”

Rouse began to explain. Half-way through the other stopped him.

“Well, all I can say is that if you fellows have gone to all this sweat just to save this match being scratched then you deserve to win it—and,” he added thoughtfully, “I’m only sorry you won’t.”

Rouse laid a hand upon his arm.

“I wonder if you could show me where I could get a rub down? I don’t know whether you’ve ever ridden from Harley on a punctured bike, but I have—and only just.”

As he followed the other away down the gravel path he looked round at the record crowd that, the cheering over, was now lining up along the touch-lines. His eyes passed thoughtfully over those members of the home side who were already taking casual place kicks on the field, and then came back and settled in turn upon certain of his own team who were coming slowly towards him from the changing-room. And in those few moments a strange solemnity obsessed him. He found himself remembering all that this lean year had meant to Harley. This was their first school match, and it would be their only one. The season would stand alone in history, and 170it was all on his account. He wondered whatever they could see in him, or what sympathy he had aroused in them that could warrant such devotion to one man. He was suddenly conscious of the weight of responsibility that was his. He, who had meant the season to be so famous in the annals of the school, had been the sole cause of the miserable fiasco that it had become. And it seemed to him that if only the school side could play such a game to-day as would be worth the fellows having come to see, it might make some amends. As a team nothing out of the way could be expected of them. They were only a scratch Fifteen, and they had not yet had one single practice game together. No one could foretell their capability. But he was their captain, and it was possible that by setting the example he might get each man on the side to play the game of his life. In the eyes of the Head he was yesterday’s captain, and Christopher Woolf Roe was to-day’s.

Well, when the story of this one match came to be written it should, if he could by one day’s captaincy ordain it, stand out as the greatest in the school’s long history. That would be some slight consolation to all those who had missed the game that was so near their hearts throughout this miserable term.

He changed and came out into the open and found his team, and all the while he could not find a word to say to anyone. Yet as they stood waiting silently for him to lead them out, he turned to them with a sudden spontaneity.

“Look here, the fellows have come no end of a distance and some of them may not get back before roll-call, but it’s in our power to give them a game that’ll keep them talking till the end of the year and make them proud to have been at school this term instead of half ashamed. I want you to do it. This 171is the only chance we shall have. Let’s make this match worth having played in.”

He stopped abruptly. It suddenly occurred to him that he was talking heroics for perhaps the first time in his life. And so with a sudden awkward smile he turned and led the way out. No one spoke; but as they followed him out into the open the spirit that had prompted Rouse was stirring in every breast.

The moments passed. The teams were lining up. The whistle blew. Rouse stood in readiness behind his team, casting an affectionate eye over each member of it as he moved to his appointed place. Then at last, to the tune of the most whole-hearted shout of “Harley” that Rouse had ever heard, the Rainhurst captain lifted the ball gently over the heads of Harley’s forwards and the school half had misfielded. There was a rush of hurrying forwards towards the mark and the Rainhurst pack were down and shoving. Now the handicap of a lean year was transparent. The school men were slow in getting down. Before they were properly packed the ball had been in and out, and the Rainhurst threes were slinging it away to the wing, where a youngster with the pace of a stag was coming down the touch-line to take his pass. There flew across Rouse’s view sudden patches of the Harley colours; the school backs racing across and bringing down man after man; but the ball had travelled too fast for them to reach and the Rainhurst wing took it safely, ran in and kicked high and faithfully across. Rouse watched with set eyes as in mid-air the wind caught the ball and carried it swerving out of its course; then, as it began to fall, he saw his chance, darted along the goal-line and cut in under it. He had one hurried vision of a man in the Rainhurst grey and green flying towards him and gazing upward. He took no notice. He just fetched out a sudden burst of resolute speed, took the ball from the other’s 172reach in his stride, bowled him over and left him on the grass. Then he kicked. The ball sailed up-field like a bird and, far over the distant touch-line by the Rainhurst twenty-five, fell neatly out of play.

He had gained the school relief, but now he grew gravely anxious for the future. He did not like the way those Rainhurst threes had come away to threaten his line so early. It was ominous. He contracted his mouth severely as he saw the ball thrown out of touch and the forwards scrambling round it for possession. Once his own men had it, but the pack were not properly together and it was lost. Then the game opened up and the Rainhurst backs got on the move again. Somebody dropped a pass. There came another scrum. Rouse saw that Rainhurst had it once more and were heeling like clockwork. The Harley forwards were being beaten every time. From his own position on the field he could watch all this as if from the pit stalls of a theatre, and it kept him on tenterhooks. Once he was moving up happily behind his team, driving them on with mighty punts up-field whenever the ball came within his reach, when, quite suddenly, there flashed into the picture the Rainhurst backs racing across the field, wheeling and coming down upon him with the ball, and the whole phase of the game was changed. He drew back. He saw the Harley men move up against the coming line, watching with beating heart to see if they could shatter it. But the combination of this team in the attack was paramount. Every Harley back had made his tackle, and the ball was still in the hands of a man in grey and green. There were others running beside him. Where they had come from he had no time to guess. But so soon as a Rainhurst man was down another seemed to have darted into his place. He waited cautiously. He was the last line of defence. 173If he made but one mistake now Rainhurst were through. He must choose the psychological moment and he must pick the right man. There was not one second to spare. Everything in his wide field of view faded away, and the only thing that he could see was the fast magnifying picture of a line of figures in grey and green on top of him. The moment had come. He picked his man, and as he moved to take the ball, Rouse hurtled across his front, swung round his legs, and, breathless with the thud of collision, hung on. The ball flew wide, but he was too late to reach it; a gigantic boot whizzed past his face and carried it on towards the Harley line. The Rainhurst forwards pattered past him. The game had gone by and he was out of it, but he had given his own side time and the Harley men were back and defending stoutly.

After that it was give and take, and the game would not shift out of the Harley twenty-five. One high punt carried the ball out of the ruck, and Smythe came in from the wing and gathered it neatly. There was a quick expectant hush whilst he started away, and Terence was up alongside with safe hands ready for his pass. The ball jumped into his arms and he had it safely and was cutting with lowered head into the bunch of forwards who were hovering round him. A new shout of hope went up from the Harley side of the ground, but it was premature. The last to be seen of Terence was the vision of his body being dragged to earth by three men in grey and green, whilst the ball worked out into the open. Without delay those dangerous Rainhurst forwards, perfectly together, were round it in a herd. They were coming down-field with it at their toes as if it were merely a practice dribble. The sight of Coles darting into the picture, and flinging himself upon it, relieved anxiety for a moment, but he was somehow bundled out of the way and the pack came on. 174Rouse got ready again. The fellows on the touch-line saw him crouching for his spring and knew that he would never let them through. But in the tenseness of the moment their voices grew hushed and they could only wait. A sudden diversion saved the day. One hulking forward in the front rank of the Rainhurst pack had kicked the ball too hard and it had bounced out of reach. In a flash their chance had gone. Smythe came across their front at a sprint, gathered the ball with extended hands and carried it clear.

Again the shouting started. Smythe had it safely and his wing was clear for twenty yards. He bent to his task and ran. One of the Rainhurst halfbacks was pounding behind him, but had not the pace to make the tackle. Smythe shook him off and looked for his own three-quarters. They had shaped out into position and were well in motion. Then the Rainhurst wing, whose duty was to mark Smythe, came in with a rush and he passed the ball; but as he spun sideways and was dragged down on to his back he had the horrifying vision vouchsafed him of another man in grey and green speeding away with that same ball on his chest, whilst Terence was pounding after him and reaching desperately for his jersey. There was one tense moment of doubt and fear, then the sprinting man had swerved past Lister and had only Rouse to beat. Just as before, Rouse came into the picture with a dashing enthusiasm and took his man at a gallop. The Rainhurst runner had no chance. In two seconds it was all over and Rouse was scrambling to his feet, whilst the school forwards, a badly bustled pack, came round and struggled for the ball. It came out and somebody fell on it, so that there followed another scrum. Again it worked loose on the Rainhurst side, but Coles smothered the lucky half before he could get it away, and not an inch was gained. At last Saville, seeing 175the ball bouncing before his eyes, grabbed at it and punted for touch. But the Rainhurst blood was up and they meant to score. The game had settled upon the Harley twenty-five and nothing could move it on. Rainhurst were too good. Every scrum went in their favour. They could do everything but cross the line. Time and again their threes seemed safely away and would have scored, had not there shone from out the Harley Fifteen a wondrous individuality of play that held them. There was always one who darted in at the critical moment and scooped the ball into his keeping or downed the man who had it. His instinct of defence was magical. He seemed ubiquitous and impregnable, and through Harley’s rough time he held together a team that were weary of tackling by an outstanding energy that made him a standard-bearer to his side.

Wherever he could be seen at grips with the attacking host the Harley men rallied around him. He grew discoloured with mud and the bruises of continuous collision and became unlike himself, but so long as they could identify his shape the vast crowd never ceased to shout his name.

And so when half time came and play stopped suddenly there was set upon the field a tableau.

Yesterday’s captain stood unconquered upon his line, with his scratch team gathered round him, and the Rainhurst men were held.

There came a gracious interval, and on to the field moved streams of enthusing Harleyans who clapped upon the back each member of the team that they could reach, whilst Rouse moved this way and that amongst his men, whispering words of counsel for the even greater battle that was to come.

“You were fine,” he said to each in turn, “but we haven’t scored yet.”

They nodded grimly, making their own resolve in secret, and so when the whistle blew again, and the 176ball was once more lifted into the air, it was Harley who started the attack.

The forwards, as if in an effort to make up for their clear defeat in the scrum, gathered the ball amongst them and took it away up-field with an all-devouring dash. For a little while the Rainhurst men were staggered. Harley made way by grim degrees towards their goal. Close up, Betteridge, who was long in the arm, contrived to reach the ball and toss it back over his head to the neighbourhood where the three-quarters were waiting eagerly. Terence jumped sideways and took it as it bounced; but a stalwart figure in grey and green was upon him before he could make away, and the chance was gone. Yet Harley would not be denied. The great shouting from their fellows on the touch-line kept them at it. Again and again the ball was taken forward at a pell-mell rush, only to be suddenly gathered and punted back by Rainhurst.

And at these times it was Rouse who nipped in and fielded it as it fell, so that great punts into touch, far up, kept the school at the right end.

The suddenness with which Rainhurst turned their defence into attack proved the greatness of their side. For a full ten minutes they had been hard pressed, and no one knew how it was that their stand-off half found that wonderful opening. Yet in some way he had caught the Harley men all on one side of the ground. A high punt carried the ball towards him and he took it on the run, and kicked down the field. It dropped midway between Rouse and himself, and he had just that extra turn of speed that enabled him to get to it first. He held it for a bare moment whilst he swerved, then he had kicked again, high over Rouse’s head, and was following up as before. The luck was all his. The try depended on the bounce of the ball, and it bounced straight into his hands. Afterwards it was only a 177question of pace; he had that pace and he scored far out.

Slowly and solemnly Harley lined up under the posts. They heard the frenzied cheering of the Rainhurst boys and bore it patiently. But Rouse said never a word, and only those who took a covert glance at him knew what must be passing in his mind.

The place kick went wide, and so the game restarted. And now the shouting for Harley, hoarse with strain, seemed, nevertheless, redoubled into a roar of pleading. Just once Rouse looked towards them. Then he turned back to the game and was pacing slowly across the field, staring with set eyes at the scramble for the ball as it came out from touch. Time passed. Fellows on the line began to glance nervously at their watches, but he seemed to take no count of it. He just moved always behind his team, nursing each movement with consummate understanding and calling to them gently by name when the play opened up.

At last their opportunity came.

Almost upon the Rainhurst twenty-five a free kick was awarded Harley. The shouting died away. The crowded touch-line suddenly grew still. Rouse moved forward. He looked round for Coles. Coles was the best drop-kick in the school. It mattered not to Rouse that this might prove the winning effort of the match, and that if so the certainty existed that Coles would know how to turn it to good account. The school came first. He called to Coles:

“Try for goal.”

Coles went to the mark, looked round him almost nervously, took careful aim; the ball fell and he met it beautifully on the bounce with his toe. It was a great kick, and at first it seemed to have scored. Yet just beside the goal the breeze caught it and held it up. It dropped slowly just on the wrong side of the 178posts. Coles turned away distressfully. He took no notice of the cordial clapping. He had failed. Rainhurst took heart again. Over and over again they broke away, only to be smothered by the irresistible tackling of Rouse’s chosen backs. They had earned one try and it was clear that it had been the most they could do. It was not an effort that could be repeated. Harley could prevent it, but there was something they could not do. They could not find the way through to that other goal-line that would mean so much to them. At last this seemed to be borne in upon them slowly and they began to tire. They were losing and their hearts were failing them. Rouse could see it. He said no word. Instead he grew more resolute in manner and more wonderful in his own kicks, knowing that nothing can pull a tired team together like example. Somehow or other they would have to score. He was their captain and it was his task to whip them into a last desperate effort that would carry someone over that line. If they could not win this match, then at least they should not be beaten. He began to grow restless. Time was passing quickly. He felt that great responsibility upon him again. He had been chosen captain. If he could not somehow get one try out of this side from Harley then he was not a worthy leader. They had to cross that line. It was his task to make them. Only so could the greatness of this match be capped. Only so could this day be marked for always in red letters on the school’s official calendar.

And then, suddenly enough, the ball worked loose and a Rainhurst man, bearing down upon it, had gathered it into his arms and was away. Smythe was out of position and he had a clear field. Coles sped diagonally across the field and with a gallant effort almost reached him, but the Rainhurst man had too great a pace and escaped by inches. As he 179ran he looked urgently for his partner. Not only his own centre but the whole of the Rainhurst line were with him. He glanced along it delightedly, saw it moving with him at top speed, and then he looked ahead. There was only one man to pass—a tired man, discoloured with the stain of battle. One man against a line. He ran in a little, ready for a swerve, prepared to pass. The one man watched him as he came with glassy eyes. The moment came. Rouse moved to make his tackle. As he did so the Rainhurst man flung the ball towards the centre, and in that moment he realised his mistake.

In those precious seconds that Rouse had had in which to make his quick decision he had realised that, with a complete line running with him, the man with the ball would not attempt to get through on his own. It was an isolated case in which he would be justified in not tackling that man. Once he, the last line of defence, was down and out of action, the Rainhurst line were through and a try was a virtual certainty.

He had bent to a dummy tackle, then straightening instantly he sprang into the air and intercepted the pass. Next second he was away with it on his chest.

In that moment the little world around the field went wild. The whole of the Rainhurst line had passed him and were looking back dazedly over their shoulder. Before him the field of play opened out, and he saw that the way was clear. Until he had summoned his utmost speed he looked neither to right nor left, but when at last he was running as only a man extended to the last degree can run he glanced around for aid, and it was there. Terence was sprinting beside him like one possessed, and his voice rang wildly across the open:

“With you! With you!”

It was enough. Rouse turned again to his front and called out one extra yard of inhuman pace. He 180knew now that he was not alone. The day was saved. A man in grey and green sprang across his path, and Rouse handed him off and sent him staggering aside. Then he could see that, just as when the Rainhurst line had come upon him, so now he had come upon his rival back, and he saw him preparing for his tackle.

He moved his hands and began to circle them ready to give his pass.

Just beyond Terence he caught a quick glimpse of Smythe flying down the touch-line in an effort to draw alongside. The deafening cheers of young men leaning over the ropes and beating the air with caps were urging him on.

Then the moment had come. He swerved in slightly, made ready, and flung the ball straight and true into Terence’s hands.

A baby could not have dropped it.

And as the Rainhurst man came at him and brought him down on his side, he saw the flying figure of Terence darting over the line and grounding the ball between the posts.

At that moment he would have given his kingdom to have stayed where he fell upon the grass, and to have lain in peace until the aching in his weary limbs had passed.

Yet he scrambled up. The air was thick with waving hats. He shouted to Smythe, but in the din no one could hear his voice.

So he signalled the order, and Smythe went slowly to the mark and took the kick. In a deadly hush the ball rose into the air and dropped truly and gracefully over the bar.

In the turmoil that followed the referee’s no-side whistle was scarcely heard. Rouse looked round hopelessly. There was no way out. Wave upon wave of shouting Harley maniacs were bearing down on him from every side.

181He was seized and shaken, found himself lifted up by the legs. He tried to break free. It was utterly useless. So at last he looked at them wearily in turn.

And then he smiled.

For this one day he had been their captain. Nothing mattered now.



Alone upon the wide deserted expanse of the playing fields at Harley there stood, a picture of misery, the only fellow in the school who had not dared to go to Rainhurst. There were, it is true, somewhere in the school, other boys, but they had mostly remained behind under compulsion. Some were in detention and some in the infirmary. A round dozen or so were of a type who never did watch football even when it was taking place under their noses, and they had played no part in that clandestine excursion simply because it had had no attraction for them. But there was only this one boy who had been afraid to go.

It was Christopher Woolf Roe. He was by no means happy, and he was obsessed with a melancholy interest as to what his father would have to say when he knew what the school had done. He gazed out mournfully over the forsaken football ground. No sound of any boyish voice reached his ear. It might have been holiday time. So when a step sounded unexpectedly behind him on the gravel path he turned in surprise. The school porter was crossing from the neighbourhood of the Head’s room, and something in his manner suggested that he was conveying a message. Roe, starving for company, looked at him as a pig looks at some farm hand carrying a pan of swill.

“Do you want me?” he asked hopefully enough.

The porter answered with dignity. As a man of 183discrimination he had been on the school’s side throughout this strife, and he was not disposed to make conversation with one whom he considered something of a traitor.

“The Headmaster wishes to speak to you, sir,” said he, and withdrew.

Without a word Roe moved away dejectedly towards the stained-glass windows of his father’s room, and passed through the old oak door beside the steps. He had not even the heart to whistle as he went.

He knocked at the door and was greeted by ominous silence. He went in. The Head was standing by the fireplace, leaning against the mantelpiece, and by every line of his face Roe could see that he was going to address him not as a father but as the Headmaster of a Public School. He moved silently across the carpet.

“Did you want me, sir?” said he respectfully.

He placed one hand in the other and rubbed them gently together.

The Head looked at him grimly. Half-an-hour ago he had stood at his window looking out upon his kingdom. It had struck him quite suddenly that the neighbourhood of the school was strangely quiet. He had leaned out a little farther. He could still see nobody about. Finally he had craned his neck to its limit and turned his head all ways. There was no doubt about it. The school was deserted. He had never seen the place so quiet on a Saturday. The seats under the trees were all unoccupied. No sound came from the fives courts. No figure could be discerned on any pathway. The only houses that he could see looked uninhabited. Sudden perplexity had settled upon him. He had furrowed his brows.... Next he had left his room and had gone into the school and along the corridors to places from which he could see the playing fields from every angle. 184He peered into the common rooms, inspected the library.... His suspicions became a certainty. There was something wrong. He went back to his own room, and all the way along the corridor the tap of his footfall produced a hollow, echoing ring that spoke of utter emptiness.

From his own window he took one final peep on to the football ground. There at last he had seen a solitary youth, Harley’s Cinderella, walking with downcast mien aimlessly across his front. It was his son.

In the five minutes that had elapsed since that moment he had endeavoured to reason things out, but it had been like groping one’s way in the dark through some strange underworld. He was utterly bewildered, and he was conscious of fast-growing anger. He eyed his son for a little while petulantly, and at last he spoke.

“There is nobody anywhere about the school,” said he indignantly. “The place is deserted. Can you offer any explanation?”

Roe did not hesitate. He was, in point of fact, glad to get it off his chest. Besides the news was sensational and there is always a certain gratification in breaking news of a kind that makes a man jump out of his slippers.

He spoke incisively.

“Yes,” said he, “I think I can tell you what’s happened. The First Fifteen have gone to Rainhurst to play the match of the season, and every fellow in the school who could has gone over to see the game.”

The effect of this news exceeded all expectation.

For one moment his father merely looked dazed. But as he began to recover Roe slowly backed towards the wall. Then he found himself staring helplessly towards his father’s table, absolutely fascinated by the fixed glare of his wide eyes shining with concentrated 185anger from behind their spectacles, just as a rabbit is frozen still by the cold eyes of a snake. His father did not speak. He just subsided slowly into his chair and his eyes never left his son’s unhappy countenance. He was looking him through and through, and Roe could see that he was at the same time turning it all over in his mind and looking at this outburst by a fettered school from every possible angle. Nothing was going to escape consideration. The probability was that he was no more vexed at the open lawlessness of such a match than at the astounding fact that the officially appointed captain of football at the school had been left out of the team by those who had selected it. He was very clearly taken aback.

At last his lips jerked open and he spoke, but no muscle of his body moved, and his eyes never for one instant shifted from their close examination of his son. His voice was ominously hard and dry. He said:

“If you knew that this was going to happen why did you not mention it in time for me to stop it?”

Roe moved a pace nearer to the wall.

“Coles said——” he began.

“Coles?” snapped the Head. “What part has he in this? Has he gone with the team? Is Coles playing for the school?”

Roe tried to steady himself before he spoke. He answered after a moment’s pause:

“He’s playing. But he had a reason. He thought that if he refused suspicion would settle upon him and spoil our chance of doing any good later on. There was another thing too. He had made a plan.”

“What plan?” The Head stood up. “Coles seems to imagine,” he exclaimed, “that I wish him to come to my support with underhand plots. I require no such help whatever. His suggestions of 186late have been an open insult to the power of my authority. You will tell Coles that whatever I require of him will be obtained by exacting his obedience to my instructions and not by lending my ear to subterfuges. Coles utterly misconceives his position. You will tell him that I am exceedingly angry to find that to advance some plot of his own he agreed to disobey my orders.”

Roe shivered miserably.

“And you,” declared his father, “what have you done to stop this open defiance of my instructions? You are captain of football here, and as my own son you came to this school with a ready-made reputation. You could, by strong action, have swayed the school to my support within a fortnight. Instead you have been crassly inactive. This match has taken place under your very nose and you have not so much as lifted a finger to prevent it. We are well into the second half of term, and instead of showing determination in tackling the state of affairs you are content to be made ridiculous by a youngster whose sole qualification to captaincy is his popularity. I am amazed.”

Roe moved a step farther back.

“I thought——” he began.

“Be silent,” commanded the Head. “Listen to me. Immediately Rouse returns you will tell him to come to my room without a moment’s delay——”

Roe interrupted.

“It’s no use sending for Rouse,” said he. “Everybody who’s playing has sworn to take a share of the blame.”

The Head stared at him. Roe proceeded to explain, but the Head was impatient.

“I shall see Rouse,” he repeated. “And you, as captain of football, will make it your business to give him those instructions personally. There is another thing. Mr Nicholson has gone up to London for 187the day. I understand he is returning by car very late to-night. Instruct the porter to send to his rooms and leave word that I require to see him here to-morrow morning immediately before chapel. You yourself will remain about the school until Rouse returns. Whatever time it may be you will see that he comes here forthwith. If I am not here he will wait until I return. You clearly understand?”

“Yes, sir,” said Roe, in a melancholy whisper.

The Head pointed towards the door, turned in his chair and picked up a paper with hands that were trembling with suppressed wrath. Roe closed the door gently behind him.

As soon as he had gone the Head threw his paper on to the floor and stood up. He moved to the window and stood there a moment looking out upon the school’s strange solitude. It was tea-time. By now the match must be nearly over. Within a few hours those who had broken his strict command would be returning and going to their respective houses.

He had until then to make up his mind as to the penalty that must be paid. Rouse had challenged his son’s authority, and his son had proved hopelessly unable to compete with him. Sudden keen disappointment came into the Head’s heart. He felt extraordinarily alone. There was no single being in the whole school who was upon his side. He had sent for his son in the belief that his son stood out amongst ordinary boys as he stood out amongst ordinary headmasters. His son had failed. He had nobody now to depend upon. He stood entirely alone. But the school had challenged him and he must find an answer.



Now and again words spoken in a hollow tone drifted through the night and reached Terence in snatches.

Occasionally he answered, but it was evident that one of those moods was upon Rouse in which he loved to maintain a rambling monologue, content to speak his changing thoughts or to register opinions as they came to him without requiring any answer at all.

Most of the boys had travelled by train, but many had returned as they had come, by trap or bicycle; some were walking, however, and it was for this latter reason that Rouse and Terence had elected to walk too.

“We shall lose half the fun,” Rouse had affirmed, “if we do this thing in too great comfort. Let’s have the satisfaction of knowing that, as some of the kids have had to walk, we’ve walked too. It’s only sporting.”

He was talking again now. Terence pricked his ears politely.

“It is not,” he was saying, “until you have wheeled one of these infernal machines for about twelve miles without getting a ride even down a bit of a hill that you properly understand why they are called push-bikes.”

Terence turned to look at him.

Rouse was plodding a little in rear. It was pouring with rain and his overcoat was soaked and shining; rain was even dripping from his very ears. 189Yet the night was cheerfully illumined by his smile. Terence, who had a handbag in one hand and the other in his pocket, nodded ahead.

“We’re nearly there. You see those lights? That’s Harley!”

He stepped out with new hope. One might have imagined that he had no care in all the world.

Rouse’s response came in a sober monotone:

“You are quite right. That one red light, shining all alone, is the end of the Headmaster’s cigar, I think. He will be waiting up for us with a tray of cold supper. May heaven reward his kindly nature.”

They walked on for another mile in contemplative silence. For a time Terence took a turn at wheeling the bicycle. At last the cottage from which they had borrowed it was reached, and it was gratefully returned with the price of a new back tyre.

Twenty minutes later they finally came to Harley’s gates. In the distance they could just distinguish a group of youngsters who had been walking ahead of them making their way stealthily across to Mainwright’s house.

They turned, and behind them they could hear the steady tread of another couple who had been plodding along behind change suddenly to a cautious softness.

Rouse looked round him quizzically. At last he returned his gaze to Terence. “Nick,” said he, “it would be well to rise on the toes.” Next moment he was leading the way with a mysterious and ghostly tread along the gravel path towards Morley’s. “It is the last lap,” said he. “I wonder if we are going to secure a cigar or nuts.”

Terence made no immediate reply. He was looking watchfully towards the Headmaster’s room. But the blinds were drawn and only a dim light could be seen within.

They moved across the open. The rain was still 190beating down relentlessly upon them. Little pools of water were spreading across the football ground. There was a melancholy mist about the distant houses. They were dog-tired. Whilst they went, their heads bowed a little to the downpour, Rouse spoke no further word, not, however, because he was wondering in his heart what was to be the outcome of that great game, but curiously enough because his mind was busily planning how he could manage to get another hot bath before he went to bed.

When, therefore, right outside Morley’s, a figure came suddenly towards them, Rouse looked up with a start. Then he stopped. It was impossible to mistake the build of that young man. It was Christopher Woolf Roe. Instinctively the captain of cricket and the captain of football drew near to one another and waited for him to speak. They had not long to wait. He stopped in front of them and looked at Rouse.

“The Headmaster would like to speak to you,” he said.

Rouse eyed him good-humouredly.

“Did the Headmaster give you a note?”

“No, he didn’t. He said you were to go to his room directly you came in and wait there till he came back.”

Rouse shook his head sadly.

“I wonder if he knows that in my present condition I shall leave a pool of water wherever I stand?” said he. “It seems such a pity to spoil his carpet, doesn’t it? Besides, I shall sneeze so. And sneezing always makes him cross.”

Roe looked him slowly up and down with his pig-like eyes.

“The fact is,” said he, with ill-concealed delight, “you’re in for it.”

“If you mean to imply,” said Rouse, “that the 191Head is getting up a raffle, let me say that you are mistaken. I shall not be in for it.”

There was a moment’s pause.

“All right,” said Roe at last. “I’ve told you, haven’t I?”

He moved haughtily away, his duty done. Rouse and Terence looked thoughtfully after him.

“I think I’ll go along,” said Rouse, in a low voice. “When he sees how wet I am he’ll cut it short.”

“I’ll come along too.”

Rouse laid a restraining hand upon his shoulder. “No. Leave things alone for now. I’ll go and see what he’s got to say. There’ll be plenty of time for you afterwards. Go in and see if you can’t bag me a hot bath! And,” he added over his shoulder as he was moving off, “somewhere in my study there’s a tin of sardines. It would be a rather pleasing thought if you bust it open so that we can give them a decent burial on a slice of bread.”

Terence made no answer: he just stood hesitantly where Rouse had left him watching as he went to meet his doom.

And now the way across the sodden football ground seemed very long. Only now that he was alone, and going backward instead of forward, did Rouse thoroughly realise the ache that was in his legs. Each footstep became a dragging effort.

It suddenly struck him that this would never do. Roe would be watching him. Very likely the Head was peeping out from behind his curtains. He would look to them as if he were going guiltily to the scaffold. He assumed an extravagant jauntiness after that. On the gravel path he met the group of enthusiasts who had been walking behind him all the way from Rainhurst, and he stopped and curveted humorously before them, his overcoat shining like oilskin, raindrops flying like spray from his sleeves and trouser legs.

192“The performing sea-lion,” said he. “My next will be Sir Henry Irving.” He suddenly whipped his bowler hat from his head, dented it with one blow of his clenched fist and pulled it far down over his ears. Then he stood before them with folded arms. “Fifty faces under one hat—Napoleon!” His hands flew to the battered bowler and twisted it round with wild movements. “Charlie Chaplin!” Again he bounded about. His hat received another violent buffet. He faced them again. “A Nun!” Then he pulled it to one side and declared “Father Christmas!” Finally he made one swift gesture and struck another pose. “The Head Man of Harley,” said he. “Hard Roe.”

So far as it could be, it was lifelike. The hat was perched well forward over his forehead and his mouth was drawn down into a scowl. One knee was bent a little and his hands were clasped behind imaginary coat-tails.

For perhaps two seconds he held the pose. Then a thunderous roar reached him from almost immediately above his head. It was the voice of the Head, and the noise shaped itself at last into the word: “Rouse!

Rouse shot to his full height like a man electrocuted and looked up.

That which might very well have been the head of a bloodhound was silhouetted against the lighted background of an open window.

Rouse slowly punched his hat to its right shape and placed it tenderly upon his head. The window was shut with a resounding bang. He began to move along thoughtfully towards the old oak door, and long after he had passed out of sight beyond it there still stood huddled aside in the darkness his erstwhile audience in attitudes of absolute astonishment.

Alone for a moment, Rouse spent a brief period 193of time in an attitude of reverence striving to recover his proper dignity. Then he moved solemnly forward across the small space that separated him from the oak door wherein he was to learn his sentence. He knocked respectfully. At first he could hear no answer. But at last the silence was broken and a stern voice said to him: “Come in.”

He went in cheerfully. Except for one electric candlestick upon the writing-table, the room was in darkness, but the candle was so placed that it shone directly upon the Head’s lined countenance, and Rouse could see that it was very grimly set. He moved across the room and stood before the table in readiness to learn the worst. Their eyes met. Rouse did not give way. He looked at the Head, not impudently, but with evident self-reliance. And the Head looked at him.

“Where have you been, Rouse?”

For one moment Rouse was in doubt as to how much was known, and it was on the tip of his tongue to say: “Bird’s-nesting,” or: “I’ve been out into the country, sir, and I was a bit late back.” But something in the other’s expectant eyes warned him, and finally he answered simply enough: “It was the Rainhurst match, sir. And we’ve been to play it.”

The Head made no move. “You led me to believe that the whole of your fixtures for the season were cancelled.” He paused. “In this school—or indeed in any school—there must be one Head and one alone!”

It occurred to Rouse to murmur brightly the truism that two heads are better than one, but he remained discreetly silent.

“My orders were that, until the captain of football was properly recognised in this school, football was to cease. In addition, you have been out of bounds. I find that the whole school have been with you and 194there is no doubt that it was you who persuaded them to go. You have dared to challenge my authority. By posing as a martyr to my stern ruling you have earned such easy popularity that your vanity has grown into a foolish bubble. I think that when the school wakes up to-morrow to find what you have led them into that bubble will be pricked. You will be no longer a self-appointed hero; you will have very little to be proud about. No doubt you considered that by devising the expedition which you led this afternoon you were covering yourself with fame. It might have been so. But those who knew me at Wilton could tell you that it was a very idle hope if you thought that you could defeat me.” He paused. “Why did you do it?” he demanded, in sudden violent anger.

Rouse was about to answer, but the Head leaned forward across the table and pointed at him with a thick forefinger. It was clear that he required no answer.

“I can tell you why,” said he. “It was to gratify your self-conceit. In the face of my stringent order, you deliberately arranged a match in which you could pose as captain of the school team, purely to appease your injured vanity.”

He stopped suddenly. Rouse’s countenance had undergone a surprising change. There was no longer any expression at all to be discerned upon it. His face had become a mask. He was a little pale. The only signs that there was any life behind it lay in the brightness of his eyes and the occasional movement of his mouth.

A gentle glow of satisfaction spread over the Headmaster. His words had been meant to hurt and they had succeeded. He went on ruthlessly:

“You had no thought whatever for the school. It was nothing to you that junior boys were missing 195the whole of their football through your blind selfishness. To retire from your false position was more than your crass conceit would let you do. But to justify yourself in remaining a kind of figurehead in the school you arranged this match. No doubt you have considered the possibility of your expulsion. It may be that you think your safety lies in strength of numbers.... You will tell me that you are no more to blame than any other boy in the school. I believe others are ready to say the same. I am fully prepared to find you eagerly shirking the blame that any worthy captain would accept for the conduct of his team. You, who were eager enough to pose as captain, are quite unready to take responsibility. That you require the school to share with you. I have considered that fact very carefully this evening whilst I have sat here waiting for your return, and I have already said that when the excitement of this afternoon has passed, and the aftermath sets in, when the school looks round to-morrow for something freshly interesting to attract them, they will receive a shock. I shall be interested to notice how much you personally suffer from that shock. I do not intend to expel you. I intend to demonstrate to the school exactly what you have led them into, and your own punishment will lie in the slow realisation that will come to you of the great injury which you, in your vain bravado, have done to your school. From to-morrow games of every conceivable kind will cease. Hitherto the boys, robbed of football, have been able to glean some satisfaction from minor forms of sport. To-morrow all such opportunities will have vanished. By my orders the fives courts will be closed. The gymnasium will be locked up. I have written a note this evening to the school’s boxing professional to tell him that his services will not be required next term. Every kind of sports 196kit in the school will be impounded. Any boy seen in athletic attire will be placed in detention. In addition, the town will be placed out of bounds. School hours will be increased. The only recreation allowed will take the form of outdoor walks by forms under a form master.”

The Head suddenly sat back in his chair and made a gesture of final triumph.

“You have sinned,” said he, “but it is the school that will do penance.”

Rouse had never so much as moved a muscle of his face. Just as he had foretold, the raindrops had trickled into a pool about his feet. Now at last his lips parted.

“Thank you for telling me your intentions, sir,” said he. “I shall know now what to do.”

The Head rose slowly to his feet.

“Your tone signifies that you still do not thoroughly understand the great punishment you have brought upon the school. That decides for me the one point upon which I was still uncertain. It is clear that there is no hope of an altered attitude on your part. Let me then add this. I have explained that all sports will cease and I have no intention of relaxing my decision. It follows that every coach at present here will be unemployed, and will therefore leave the school. Since there will be no games, and no coaches, there will be no necessity for a games master. Mr Nicholson will therefore go to another school. And it will be your fault that the school has lost him.” He paused. “Now that you understand the punishment that your bravado has brought upon those whom you essayed to lead,” said he, “you may go.”

There was a moment’s silence. Their eyes met.

Then Rouse turned and out of the room he went; slowly, stiffly, as one who walks in his sleep.



The Headmaster’s forecast of how the school would feel when they woke up on the morning after, and of how they would take the news, was very tolerably correct. Some heard the truth overnight and scarcely slept. But it was not till breakfast-time on the Sunday morning that the report could properly be spread. By dinner-time it had found its way into the farthest corners of the school, and that everybody knew was evident by the bump with which the school’s good spirits fell. Most boys had wakened in excellent humour, refreshed after a good night, eager to talk over with others the outstanding points of that great game, and full of satisfaction at having been at the school during a term when such an historic match had been played.

They were ready, too, for fresh sensations. That followed as a matter of course. Very few really believed that that expedition could have taken place without somehow coming to the notice of the Head, and the air was alive with surmise as to what he would do.

The news of what he had already done hit them with a thud.

At first it seemed incredible—that part which concerned Toby, anyway. And then when confirmation of it came from every available source, and there could be no further doubt, the school bowed their heads to the blow, and Harley passed into mourning.

198There were many who could not believe that there was not some way out. The ban on games was not so very terrible. But that, because of that match with Rainhurst, Toby Nicholson should go, and with him the school boxing coach and the gym. instructors, was too shockingly bad to be true. Everybody had known why Toby had gone to town that day. He had known about the match, and so he had kept away. Now he was to pay the penalty for not denouncing it. For a while brains were dulled. The brightest boys could think of no way of escape save humble apology to the Head or open riot. The latter could scarcely save Toby; it might in the end only serve to aggravate the general position, and the former was almost more than they could visualise. It would, in any case, only mean sacrificing Rouse to save Toby.

In every study friends sat together in silent wretchedness. There was scarcely a face in all the school that had not grown noticeably longer since morning. Rouse was little to be seen. A few had passed him walking across the open, with head erect and a face that was quite expressionless, but none except seniors had had a word with him, and even they could not guess accurately what his real feelings were. That he was keeping them to himself, and that he was very badly hit, was the most they could report.

Terence only was with him in his study when Toby knocked quietly at the door, just before dinner-time, and came in, and Rouse got up stiffly and stood at the table watching him as he entered, palpably afraid to hope for any better news.

“Is it true, sir?” said he at last. “Did he mean it?”

Toby rested his hands cheerfully upon his hips.

“It’s true, yes; but after all, term’s nearly over. It’s not so very awful.”

199Rouse drew away.

“But it’s my fault. That’s the trouble. The Head told me so. He got at me.” He paused. There was silence for a moment. Then he said again: “He got at me.”


“Somehow he’d come to know that the fellows had planned to share the blame. He said I was afraid to take it on my own shoulders. He said it was my personal vanity that the school would have to suffer for now. Because I was too conceited——”

Toby stopped him.

“He didn’t tell me that. He said that I was clearly too recently a schoolboy to carry proper weight with the fellows here now. His idea was that it would do me a great deal of good to go to another school for a while and gain experience in handling youngsters, and then in a year or so’s time perhaps come back here, with a heavier manner about me, and try again. He considers that half the trouble here this term has been because I have not exercised proper influence with you chaps. He is prepared to recommend me to a post at another school. But to strengthen his own position here, he wants me to go this week and not to wait till the end of the term. That’s all.”

Rouse shook his head.

“No,” said he. “He was right. It’s my fault; and besides, how about Wilcox and the gym. sergeants?”

“Wilcox has had notice,” answered Toby. “The Head is going to recommend him for another job, too. The gym. sergeants are to shut up the gym. and go for a holiday. And they’re to wait instructions. But he doesn’t want me to come back whilst you two are here. He thinks I’ve a bad influence over you somehow or other.”

“What shall we do?” asked Terence, speaking for the first time. “Where will you go?”

200“I shall go for a holiday,” he answered. “And,” he added, “you’ve got to cheer up. You’ve had your good time. You played the match. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t there to see it. I don’t mind my gruelling. You mustn’t mind yours.”

Now there was throughout this mournful Sunday only one study in Harley that held a young man whose countenance was not distressed. Upon this young man’s lips there was, as a matter of fact, a decided smile. He sat at his table looking cheerfully across the room at Christopher Woolf Roe, and when he spoke his voice was light.

“When I first heard it,” he was saying, “I was frightfully fed up, because I’d a pretty decent chance of being captain of boxing next year and I’ve been practising a good deal, whilst there’s been no footer. It seemed to me that this rather upset my apple-cart. I had a sudden vision of boxing being barred next term, just like footer has been this, and I can tell you I didn’t like it. But I can see now that after all it isn’t at all a bad scheme of your father’s. He’s caught them on the hop. To-day everybody will be Rugger mad. And this is the time to get them. You and I may be able to give some colours away even yet. Did you tell your father about my plan?”

“Well, I told him you had one, but as a matter of fact he got rather annoyed.”

Coles was decidedly taken aback.

“Annoyed? Why?”

“He seemed to think it was a bit patronising of you to make a plan at all.”

“Oh, nonsense!” snapped Coles. “He didn’t understand. You didn’t explain it properly.”

“I didn’t have time.”

Coles shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, anyway, I shall try it all the same, and then when he finds out how successful it turns out 201perhaps he’ll alter his mind. When I first got the idea I never thought I’d have such a topping chance as this to put it into effect. Just imagine Rouse’s feelings now. If ever he’s going to do what we want, now’s the chance. If he needs anything to help him decide we ought to send it to him. My original idea was just to play on the fact that he’d had his day and he ought to be satisfied, and let the school get on with it. This is twenty times better. It’s a dead snip.” He laughed shortly. After a moment he opened a book upon the table and took from between the pages a sheet of plain paper. This he passed with evident pride to Roe. “Would you recognise that writing?” said he.

Roe peered at it thoughtfully.

“No,” said he at last. “It looks like some kid’s.”

Curiously enough, Terence expressed exactly the same opinion when that sheet of paper was handed to him a few hours later. He added, however, a brief proviso.

“Naturally,” said he, “a fellow who wants to write an anonymous letter doesn’t use his own handwriting.”

Rouse had moved to his side and was reading it through again with solemn eyes. At last he spoke.

“Do you think that’s true? Whoever he is, do you think he’s right?”

“I think he’s off his nut.”

Rouse laid the paper upon the table and carefully smoothed it out. Then he sat down and began to read it through all over again.

It was quite a short note. It had no proper beginning and no ending. It purported to be a mere statement of fact.

“There is a general feeling in the school,” it read, “that as you have had your ambition and led the 202school team on the footer field you ought to give way now. The fellows think that if it’s a question of sacrificing either you or Mr Nicholson, it ought not to be Mr Nicholson who must suffer for what was your idea. Some of us have decided to let you know this.”

For a little while Rouse sat with his head propped in his hands staring at it fixedly, and eventually he sat back.

“Whoever it was,” said he, “he read my thoughts very well indeed. What he’s written down is exactly what I’ve been thinking all day. The only thing I’m afraid of is this. Supposing I go to the Head and give in. Supposing I promise to play under Roe and get the school to recognise him as captain. What will the Head do? Will he play the game? I’ve got a horrible fear at the back of my head that he won’t. I can picture the way he’ll smile. He’ll say that he’s very glad to hear it. And then if I say: ‘Now, will you let Mr Nicholson stay?’ he’ll open his eyes at me and say: ‘Good gracious, boy, I’m not here to make bargains. My decision of last night was not a threat; it was a punishment.’ And then I shall have humbled the school for nothing.”

Terence moved towards him again and gripped him by the shoulders.

“Look here. Don’t you do anything confoundedly idiotic. Leave the Head absolutely alone. We’re not going to let a man win a fight by hitting below the belt. Toby can look after himself. As he says, it’s nearly the end of term already. We’ll see it out. This rotten note is a lie from start to finish. There’s no such feeling in the school at all. Don’t you be guyed by a thing like this.”

“Well, who’s written it?” demanded Rouse. “Tell me that. The thing was left lying on this table. Somebody must have put it there.”

203Terence took it up once more.

“Let’s have another look,” said he.

Next moment there came a gentle tap at the door, and the one who in all the school Rouse would have least wanted to see that note came in, and he sprang up quickly. It was Toby.

Rouse looked at Terence with quick meaning, but Terence ignored him.

“Here, Toby,” said he, “you’re just the chap we want. Have a look at this.”

Rouse sprang towards it.

“No. Give it to me. It’s mine. My mind’s made up. That doesn’t make any difference at all.”

“Yes, it does,” said Terence sharply. “It’s getting at you. You believe it’s true.”

“It is true. Give it to me. I want it.”

Terence pushed him away, then stretched out his hand towards Toby.

“Take it,” he said. “Tell Rouse what you think of a thing like this.”

Toby came towards him with a puzzled manner. He glanced quickly at Rouse, and noting his expression turned to Terence; then in the scramble for possession, he suddenly snatched the sheet of paper out of his hand and moved aside with it. Rouse stopped abruptly and looked at him hopelessly, while Terence, glaring defiantly, sat down at last in a chair and said:

“Don’t be such an ass. Why shouldn’t he see it? It’s only Toby.”

There was a short silence.

At last Toby looked at them each in turn.

“Where did you get this?”

“He found it on the table when he came in after dinner,” said Terence.

“Who do you suppose put it there?”

“I only wish I knew.”

“D’you know who wrote it?”

204“No,” said Terence. “Either someone’s disguised his handwriting or else it’s a mere kid.”

“What does it matter anyway?” said Rouse. “It’s true, and that’s an end of it.”

Toby was reading it through again and looking carefully at the writing.

“As a matter of fact,” he said at last, “I can tell you who wrote this.”

The two chums turned to him.

“There’s only one fellow I know of who makes a ‘T’ like that,” said Toby. “It’s a pretty good effort at hiding his hand, but it’s not quite good enough. I could identify that ‘T’ anywhere. I’ve seen it too often. The fellow who wrote this is in my form.”

He waited a moment as if that were an intentional hint.

“Well?” said Terence.

“Carr wrote this.”

There was a moment’s utter stillness. At last Terence made a peculiar noise in his throat and turned contemptuously away. Rouse moved slowly towards Toby, and taking the note from him again looked at it once more.

Then he said:

“Carr? Why on earth should Carr write a thing like this?”

“Oh, you ass,” cried Terence, jumping up with a wild gesture. “Can’t you see it? Haven’t you tumbled yet? Why, good Lord, man! whose fag is Carr?”

“Coles’,” said Rouse, in a whisper.

“Yes,” repeated Terence, “Coles’.” He waited a moment. “And so,” he added, “Carr wrote that because he was made to. Hasn’t Coles got a hold on the kid? Didn’t Henry tell us that Carr was the only fellow who wasn’t delighted about the match? Do you wonder he wasn’t delighted when he knew 205he’d got to write something like this on the strength of it? Coles probably intended to send you a note like this anyway. The Head’s given him a better opening than he ever bargained for, that’s all. Carr wrote it, yes. And Coles made it up.”

Rouse turned very slowly upon his heel and faced him.

“Then,” said he, “if that’s so, it may have been Coles who let the Head know that all you fellows had promised to share the blame if there were any trouble about this match.”

“I should say it most certainly was. He probably told Roe and got him to pass it on.”

“Yes,” said Rouse thoughtfully. “Yes. I suppose that would be it.”

For a moment or two he stood like a man awaking from a trance. His eyes passed slowly and unseeingly round well-known objects about the study, and came to rest at last upon Toby’s thoughtful countenance.

“Did you want to see me, sir?”

“What I came in about will wait,” said Toby. “But now that I’m here I should just like to say this. If you do anything fat-headed—anything on the lines of that letter—it will be strictly against my wishes, and absolutely against the best interests of the school. If you lose your nerve now you may undo all the good that your example has done for the school throughout this term. I am going to-morrow, and when I leave here I want to be sure that you will carry on the good work you have been doing all the way through the term. I want you to promise me not to give in just because—it hurts. It’s not for your sake, it’s for the good of Harley.”

“Yes, that’s all right, sir,” said Rouse, in a peculiarly small voice. “I quite understand. You can trust me to see that the chaps hang on to the end ... now. I wasn’t thinking of that so much. Only 206if you don’t want me particularly I’d like you to excuse me a moment?” He paused. “I should like,” he added, “to go along and find Coles.”

The brothers Nicholson looked first at him and then at one another. Clearly the same thoughts had entered either mind.

It was Terence who spoke.

“There’s only one thing,” said he. “I ought to just mention it. You haven’t forgotten that Coles is something of a boxer? You remember he won the heavyweights last year?”

Rouse nodded his head.

“I know.”

“That’s all right then,” said Terence. “Would you like me to wait here?”

“You can wait anywhere you like,” said Rouse, “as long as you don’t come too.” He began to walk out of the door, then turned and spoke over his shoulder. “Yes,” he said rather more graciously, “I should rather like you to be here when I come back if you don’t mind waiting.”

He went out and closed the door behind him, then he began to walk quickly along the corridor and down the stairs. Out in the open he became an object of general interest. He was conscious that all who met him glanced at him in curiosity. He gave no sign of his feelings at all. He looked at one or two that he met and nodded to them cheerfully. At last he was opposite Seymour’s, and he went in and mounted the stairs two at a time.

Outside Coles’ study he stopped just for a second and knocked. Then he went in. At first there appeared to be nobody inside. But he glanced into the corner where an easy-chair was placed before the fire and observed a tuft of hair showing above it. He moved forward and leaned over. Coles was sitting there asleep. His mouth was open and his features limp. A plain young man awake, he was 207widely renowned for his extreme ugliness when asleep. Rouse dropped his hand on to his shoulder and shook him vigorously. There came a distant growling. Rouse continued to shake.

“What on earth is it?” muttered the object in the chair, slowly opening his eyes. “Who wants me? Why don’t you——” He recognised Rouse with a start and stopped abruptly. “Hullo!” he said. He rose somewhat foolishly and began to smooth his hair with his hands. “I was asleep.”

“Yes,” said Rouse calmly. “So I noticed. I’m just about to put you to sleep again too.”


Rouse explained.

“I’m going to hit you under the chin,” said he, “and I hope it’ll hurt. I thought you’d like to know.”

At first Coles only stared at him confusedly, but presently the effects of sleep began to pass from him, and he collected his thoughts and made ready to deal with the situation. He went over Rouse’s surprising statement word for word, in silent communion with his inner self, analysing it with evident care, and at length he looked up at Rouse queerly.

“You’re going to hit me under the chin? But why are you going to do that?”

He did not seem particularly disturbed at the prospect. He was merely politely interested. Possibly this was because he was very well aware that he himself could box and that Rouse could not.

Rouse did not waste words. He laid that strangely significant sheet of paper upon the table rather as if it were a mandate, and pointed at it wrathfully.

“I think you’ve seen that before?”

Coles leaned forward indifferently.

“What is it? I can’t see.”

208Next moment it was thrust angrily before his eyes and held there.

“Can you see it now?” said Rouse. “Is that your composition?”

Coles read it through coolly.

“Are you under the impression that I wrote this?”

“I know who wrote it,” said Rouse. “I’m asking you whether you made it up.”

Coles weighed his answer with care.

“If I wanted to write a note to you I should put my name to it. This has been written by some kid.”

Rouse folded the paper up and put it in his pocket with some deliberation.

“We won’t argue about it. I didn’t really expect you to admit the truth. But I wanted to mention it to you so that you’d understand what the trouble was about. There’s another thing as well. Can you tell me how the Head found out that everybody who played in the match yesterday had promised to take a fair share of the blame if there were any trouble?”

“I wasn’t even aware that he did find out.”

“Well, he did. And that’s one reason why he decided to punish the whole school by sending Mr Nicholson away. I suppose, as a matter of fact, you told Roe?”

Coles pushed his chair angrily away from him and faced Rouse across a clear space. When next he spoke his voice was thick. His wicked temper was rising rapidly beyond control.

“Is this all you came in for? Did you butt in here and wake me up just to chuck lies at me, or is there anything else you want to say? If not you can get out, and as quickly as you like. You may think you’re still captain of footer, and you may think sheer swank will carry you through to the end of the term. But it won’t go much further with me. I’ve had enough of it. Either get out or apologise.”


209Rouse drew back a little. He was slowly turning up the sleeves of his jacket.

“I came in here to hit you under the chin. As soon as you’re ready I’ll begin.”

Coles looked at him with a certain narrow satisfaction, then pushed the table to one side and moved a chair.

“You can see how much space there is here. You’ll have to stand up to it. It won’t be much use running round the room when you find how it hurts.”

Then as he put up his hands Rouse stepped in without delay and struck at him with his clenched fist. What followed was very much what might have been expected. For a little while Rouse appeared likely to slaughter his man before the fight had really got going. His blows knew the utter fury of one who fights with right upon his side but very little science. Any one of these blows would, had they landed fairly and squarely upon their target, have put Coles down and out. Unhappily they were all partly warded off. Coles merely seemed to stand aside and watch Rouse interestedly as he strove to find an opening, and at last, when the opportunity arose, he hit back at him with all his force and brought him up short.

As Rouse came in again Coles took up the defensive rôle once more. He had never shown better form. The cramped nature of the room prevented any possibility of footwork. It was incumbent upon him to stand his ground and fight, and this seldom suits a boxer who can use his feet, but Coles suited himself to the circumstances with outstanding success. His temper, which a few moments ago had been at fever heat, slowly cooled off as he found himself gaining the upper hand. The thought that a few moments hence he would have Rouse at his mercy acted as a sedative upon him, and presently he smiled. Rouse noticed it and drew back for a breather, collecting 210his energy the while for a greater and fiercer onslaught yet. Next moment Coles’ left shot out and tilted back his head. The pain of the blow was considerable, but in his present mood it counted with Rouse as naught. He set his teeth, adopted a new pose and prepared to dash in again. Before he had finally made up his mind, however, which hand to hit with, that long left had come out again and drawn a trickle of blood from his nose. He moved forward wrathfully and suddenly let fly with his own left. Coles caught the blow neatly with his elbow and slammed in a right swung. For a second or so it seemed to Rouse that his neck had been broken. He was not at all sure where he was. It came to him quite suddenly that he had fallen sideways and hit his head against the wall, so he straightened himself with an almost deprecating smile and put up his hands again.

Just as before Coles’ left shot out and tapped his nose. Rouse became decidedly annoyed. He sprang in and swung up his fist towards Coles’ chin. To hit Coles on the chin was all he had come for, and he could see no reason for delaying any longer. The blow never landed. Coles merely tilted his head tauntingly out of reach and countered again with his right. Rouse swayed giddily backwards and was brought up straight again by a blow in the middle of the waistcoat. Then for a few short moments he stood still, considering the situation in a puzzled manner whilst he faced Coles with a badly bleeding countenance and glassy eyes. The worst of a fight with bare fists is that it makes such a mess. He could feel that his face was rapidly growing unsightly; he was aware that blood was dripping down his chin and on to his collar. Unfortunately he could do nothing to stop it.

He had had no fights since his early youth. Coles was hitting very straight and cruelly hard. He 211seemed to be planting blows on the same place over and over again too. Rouse could tell that from the pain of their landing.

At last he found himself rocking groggily on his pins and he pulled himself together sharply, and when next Coles came at him he struck out lustily with either hand. One blow landed and he was delighted beyond measure. The other was somehow lost in mid-air, and before he could puzzle out what had happened Coles had hit him again with his straight left and dazed his thinking powers.

Rouse’s eyes recovered their normal vision slowly, and he looked before him. The walls seemed to be caving in, the chairs and the tables were dancing before his eyes. Coles looked disproportionate and rather horrible. He wondered if all this meant that he was going to be beaten. He could not believe it. To be licked by Coles, particularly when it was he himself who had started the fight, would be the last drop in his cup of bitterness. He dimly conceived what he would feel like when the news went round the school. What would Nick say when he crept back with a disfigured countenance and a look of shame? These thoughts passed through his mind at high speed but with peculiar clearness, and their effect was immediate. He poised himself squarely upon his feet. Somehow or other he had got to hit Coles on the chin, and if he could not do it by attack then he would do it by countering with all his force each time Coles himself came in. As he waited he furtively wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. His lips were very bruised. One of his teeth was loose. He felt quietly angry and decidedly disappointed. But under no circumstances whatever would he give in. He was not going to admit defeat even if it were pointed out to him whilst he lay stiffly outstretched upon the floor. In point of fact he found himself wondering whether there would be 212room for him to lie stiffly on that particular floor anyway. He very nearly smiled at that. Then with sudden resolution Coles was moving forward. To Rouse he seemed strangely magnified. He came with a watchful attitude, his eyes brightly ashine, his clenched fists ready as if for a final blow. Rouse made preparation. With alarming suddenness Coles was on top of him. His fists were striking out with terrible intent. They were landing almost as they liked. Rouse rocked this way and that. At last he caught a sudden glimpse of Coles’ face for once temptingly exposed, and he hit out on the spur of the moment. His fist landed gloriously, and with delightful accuracy, upon the chin, and he gave a sigh of content. Whatever else happened now he had at least done what he had come for. He had hit Coles on the chin. The blow gave him a second’s respite. He had evidently hurt Coles a good deal. Yet in the end it availed him little. Before the faint smile of satisfaction had died from his lips Coles was up against him again, driving at his face with long arms that could not be properly avoided. He fell forward, and finding himself leaning against Coles’ waistcoat, struck at it cheerfully with each hand in turn, and heard Coles grunt distressfully. He drew back to give himself more room. Coles was a little unsteady upon his feet.

They could face each other now upon more level terms. Rouse watched him closely, wondering what his next move would be. His own strength was giving out and he had no intention of wasting it in fruitless attacks.

Then Coles began to spar for an opening. Rouse waited dubiously, not knowing quite what this portended. He received a blow full in the mouth with the utmost surprise, and found himself falling backwards against the wall again. He strove to stand upright. Coles’ chin showed again for one moment clearly 213exposed, and he struck at it with all the enthusiasm which he still possessed, but the blow only half landed. Then he became suddenly angry at the absurdity of fighting in the preposterous amount of space afforded by Coles’ study. In his last tumble he had barked his leg against a fallen chair. Unless his eyesight deceived him there was not a picture in all the room that was hanging straight.

Blood had splashed across a part of the wall-paper.

But he remembered again that after all it had been he who had started the fight. It was his own fault.

Coles was coming again. Rouse strove to stand steadily. His face was to be the target again. He could see severe intention in Coles’ face. But now resolve came to him anew. He would not be knocked out. He would fight to the end. So long as he stood up he could not be considered beaten. He looked for Coles with fiery eyes and smote at him. Coles was grinning. As he smote that grin vanished suddenly, and he knew that he had got home. He steadied himself and smote again. Again he landed nicely. Then it was Coles’ turn. He struck cleanly, and once again Rouse tumbled sideways. His hand went out and found the wall, and he steadied himself like that for a moment, then turned and looked for Coles again. He began to wish he had taken off his coat. He might have done better. He was uncomfortably hot. There was a nasty taste in his mouth. His eyes were closing. His head sang. He was giddy. Coles caught him in the face. He rocked a little more. At last he began to slither foolishly down the wall. Half-way he stopped, one hand propping him up. He tried to give himself a shove off towards Coles, and floundered towards him hopefully. Coles loomed up against him with fists like small hams feeling their way towards his face again. One of them landed with a resounding smack. He sank down on to the floor and stayed 214there for a moment. At last he got up. Coles said nothing. He just got ready to hit again.

Rouse saw it coming. He would not be beaten. He struck out for himself gamely, missed, and hit again. Coles got in the way of that last one and received it on the chin, and Rouse tried to follow it up. He was half afraid that if Coles hit him again he would succumb. He drew away from the friendliness of the wall and tumbled against the table. They were out in the only clear space in the room again at last, and, facing Coles, he saw him preparing for a final blow; he put up his tired hands doggedly, leaned forward and struck at the dim shadow that was Coles, but the shadow slipped aside. Then he received a thudding blow in the mouth, heard himself give an unwitting sob of despair, felt himself falling. He was on the floor. He tried to get up. His limbs would not answer his behests. He kicked out uselessly with one leg trying to find support. At last he lay still.

When at length he came vaguely to his senses and looked round and about, Coles was sitting on the table staring at him sullenly.

He noticed with interest that Coles was marked about the face rather more heavily than he had supposed. Then he closed his eyes again. At last he struggled up. He looked for Coles politely, found himself standing with his back towards him, and turned.

His lips were swollen and difficult to control, so that he spoke with a certain indistinctness.

“Well,” he said, “I’d misjudged things. You can box and I can’t. You were too hot for me. If you don’t mind we’ll go on with this another day. And between now and then I’ll learn to box too.”

Coles looked at him contemptuously.

“You’re too late,” said he. “There isn’t going to 215be any boxing. It’s knocked on the head. That’s one of the thoughtful things you’ve done for the school, and I hope you’re satisfied.”

Rouse turned and went out. The corridor was deserted and he was grateful. He was not anxious to be seen coming out of Coles’ study like that. He went unsteadily down the stairs and out into the open. The cold wind cut at the broken skin bitterly, but now he held his head high and went almost proudly across the open towards Morley’s. He was not of the type that show their inner feelings to one and all. He knew that fellows of all kinds and conditions in Harley would be looking to him for a lead as to the correct behaviour at this final crisis, and he must set the right example. It was possible that they might think his face had suffered like that in the match, and in any case he was not going to look ashamed about it. Even when Coles began to boast, and people came to know that he had picked a quarrel with Coles and had got a hiding, there were only a very few in the school who would not understand that Coles could box and he couldn’t.

He came at last to his own study and went in. Toby had gone, but Terence rose from a chair and moved towards him. He took one glance at Rouse and turned away. There was a moment’s silence. Rouse went to the table and sat down. He was trembling a little. His hands would not keep still. At last he looked up.

Presently he made his confession.

“He put me down,” said he.

“Often?” asked Terence gently.

“Yes. Quite often.”

Terence nodded his head sympathetically. He saw that there was no need for words.

At last Rouse leaned his elbows upon the table and buried his battered face in his hands. There was nobody but Terence there to see, so what did it 216matter? He was suddenly brave no more ... he was speaking his inner feelings.

“This is the term that was to have been an unbeaten season, and it’s come to pieces in our hands.” He waited. The room was very silent. “The chaps haven’t got to look far to see what I’ve done for the school. I’ve ruined the footer, and now because of me every game that a man can think of has been stopped, and I’ve got Toby the sack—the finest fellow who ever stepped. Last of all I’ve had a licking from the fellow who always said that I wasn’t any good. What will the school say to that? Perhaps now they’ll see through me. Perhaps they’ll turn to somebody else. Supposing it’s Coles? I wonder whether it’s too late to get the Head to do the right thing.... P’r’aps if I did something outside the pale he might expel me—and keep Toby.”

Terence moved to him quickly.

“Listen,” he began. “Don’t talk like that. You’re forgetting. You promised Toby you’d hang on. Every chap in the school’s looking to you for a lead. And the side that wins this fight will be the side that can stick it out. You’re not going to weaken—now. This is the crisis. Every day we’re giving him more rope. Maybe he’ll hang himself if we only hang on. But if we give in now he’s won.”

There was silence. Rouse did not look up.

“Toby’s going to-morrow, and he told me to tell you the Head will find that the worst thing he ever did was to send him away. Toby’s not the only old Harleyan. Some of the others have influence. Lots of them have brothers here now—and sons. Sooner or later there’ll be a thundering row. I’ve got an idea Toby’s going to get amongst them and that all this will work out to the Head’s destruction. But we’ve got to stick it out. You see that, don’t you? If you were to get expelled—we should have lost. 217We’ve got to play a safe game till Toby gets to work.”

He stopped.

Rouse got slowly to his feet.

“Yes,” he said at last, “that’s right. We’ve got to stick it out.”



They were like days of drought. Wherever one moved about the school one noticed everywhere the same set look on every fellow’s face of patient resolution. There was very little ragging. Harley had become a kind of expanded orphan school. They took their exercise in crocodile formation, moving shamefacedly two by two. The only permitted recreation was the reading of heavy books. No boy so much as dared to kick a fives ball before him along the gravel path. Few had the heart to whistle. To those who were onlookers of it all—the masters, school servants, neighbouring inhabitants—this had never been expected. So soon as the news had sped its rounds that Toby was leaving, and that all games were to cease, those who were wisest shook their heads and foretold whole-hearted revolution. Some vividly imagined the Head being captured by boys and ducked. Others anticipated open refusal to do any work whatever in school hours. Yet Harley took them by surprise. They went like lambs, and this was because they had a memory to give them heart.

It was the day that Toby had left. He had caught an early train. With barely half-a-dozen exceptions the whole school had turned out to say good-bye. It had been like a ceremonial parade on Founder’s Day. Toby had shaken hands with every fellow he could reach. He had said nothing at all. He had just shaken hands. And the fellows had understood. 219They had started to sing: “He’s a jolly good fellow.” Rouse had stopped them. He had got up on to a pile of boxes at the station and addressed them with some hesitation and an uncertain voice, and he had explained things to them.

“We’ve got to stick it out.” Those had been his words. Toby had foreseen this possibility and he had sent that message. “Hang on till he can bring up reinforcements from outside. Do nothing that may make it harder for you to wait. Get nobody expelled. Wait. Things will come out all right if you only show your grit. All you’ve got to do is to stick it out.”

They had understood.

Toby was leaving then, not for good, but merely as their messenger to every other old Harleyan who still loved the school, and every parent, and he would fetch help. They need write no whining letters home. Toby would know how to do it. There would be no unpleasant scandal, no trouble with the Press. Toby had the honour of the school at heart. He would know how to do it. Sooner or later the Head would find that out. Then it would be their day. Till then their duty lay in knowing how to wait. Every day that passed and left them idle and bored to tears would, nevertheless, be a day upon which Toby would without doubt have gone another step on the road of retribution.

Whether he could call up the outside forces in time to avail during the present term could not be guessed. But he would be working for them. That would be enough. This was the memory that those who looked on in wonder at the school’s forbearance did not understand. It was Harley’s secret.

So the days passed.

The Head, for his part, found them pleasant days. He knew at last the wonder of his power. His strength had triumphed. He had the reputation of 220never doing the expected. His answer to their challenge had taken the wind completely from their sails and left them open-mouthed with awe. They were spellbound with his invincible strength of purpose. They realised at last that they had met their master. Slowly but surely he was making them bow before him. They had counted upon him making Rouse the scapegoat and they had prepared to defeat him. Instead he had defeated them. The feeling was delightful. He went his way with a shrewdly grim expression befitting a man of such resolution, but at heart he was laughing in delight. He began to overlook the disappointment he had experienced in his son. Perhaps his son was not to blame. After all, one of his stamp in one family was all that folk could reasonably expect. He looked round and about him each day and saw boys wriggling under his iron rule. He did not wonder why they did not defy him. He was content to know that they were learning a lesson they would never forget as long as they lived, and he gloried in prolonging it. Once he reminded them that their punishment could not be lightened in any way until Rouse came to him to say that the school would bow to his ruling and would recognise his son. They just ignored him.

So days passed.

Soon Toby had been gone a fortnight. No news came. Terence had had letters but they conveyed only one exhortation. They gave no such message as the whole school longed so feverishly to hear.

And then at last, when the utter weariness of life had grown almost more than they could bear, and some had begun to doubt if Toby could really do anything for them, something happened. Terence was sitting with Rouse in his study one evening when there sounded upon the door a sharp, peremptory knock. Then the door swung on its hinges and there 221entered one who held himself strangely erect, whose chin was so proudly uplifted that he seemed a living example of the proud and patient spirit that was keeping Harley solid during this the last round of the long fight. His glasses had slipped a little over the bridge of his nose, and when he stopped and brought his gaze to bear upon them each in turn he looked at them quaintly over the rims. At last his bearing relaxed. Safely inside the room with the closed door behind him he became suddenly a human boy, and it was clear that he was somewhat unsettled. It made him rather more likeable.

“I want to tell you something,” he began. “P’r’aps I ought to have come before, but I’ve been waiting to make sure.”

“What is it, Henry?” said Rouse.

Henry cast a deprecating eye at his clothes and, following his gaze, Rouse perceived that they were smeared with dirt. He held out his hands and revealed their blackened palms.

“I’ve been climbing up another drain-pipe.”

“How many is that you’ve climbed up now?” asked Rouse. “What is your average for the season?”

Henry ignored him.

“There’s a drain-pipe at Seymour’s,” said he, “that takes you on to a ledge, and you can walk along the ledge and look into Coles’ study.”

“What did you want to look into Coles’ study for?”

“I didn’t look in,” said Henry. “I listened.”

He paused. Rouse was looking at him dubiously. Terence had moved from his chair and was leaning over the table.

“Why couldn’t you listen at the door, then?”

Henry looked at him scornfully. It seemed almost superfluous to explain that in the cinematograph world nobody listens at a door if they can climb 222up a pipe and listen at a window. He heaved a sigh.

“Something has happened,” he said. “Until now no single fellow in the school has let us down. If the Head’s been looking for a chance to put the screw on a bit, he’s been disappointed. No one’s been caught out after the hours he laid down. No one has broken bounds. No one’s played games. The chaps have hung together. But to-night I came across Bobbie Carr creeping out of school just before seven o’clock.”

“Well,” said Rouse, “what did you do?”

“I stopped him and asked him where he was going, and he wouldn’t say. I jawed him a bit and told him that no matter what he was going for he wasn’t playing the game. I said he was bound to be caught, and he’d be the first one who’d let us down.”

“Did he turn back?”

“No,” said Henry soberly. “He shook me off and went on.”

“And where do you think he’s gone?”

For a moment Henry hesitated. Then he spoke up boldly.

“Seeing how much I know,” said he, “I hadn’t got any doubt. It was my idea that Coles was sending him down to the town to get something to drink.”

The captain of cricket and the captain of football looked at one another gravely and finally looked at Henry.

“And so,” continued Henry, looking at them modestly over the tops of his glasses, “I decided to get additional information, and I climbed up the drain-pipe and listened at Coles’ window.”

“Well?” said Terence.

“There isn’t any doubt about it at all. Coles was in there with some of his pals and they’re drinking. Young Carr’s been sent for another bottle.” There 223was a brief silence. “That’s isn’t quite all,” said Henry presently. “I went back to the little gates and waited for Carr to come back. I meant to take the stuff away from him and bring it to you. But—he’s never come back. I’ve waited an hour and a half. One of two things has happened. Either he’s broken the bottle and gone back for another, or else after what I told him he’s afraid to come back. Perhaps he’s run away.” Henry concluded on a low note. He was clearly distressed. “Any day now,” said he, “Mr Nicholson might make something happen. The chaps have hung together all this time and given the Head no loophole. Now this will be found out.”

It was Terence who answered first. He turned to Rouse.

“You’ve tackled Coles once,” said he. “It’s my turn. I might have better luck. I’ll go to his study and make him say where Carr’s gone.”

Rouse shook his head.

“No, it would be no use. If he’s at all tight he’d only make an unholy shindy. That’d be worse than anything. I’ll go out. I’ll see if I can’t find young Carr somewhere or other between here and the town and bring him in.”

“Why should you go?” demanded Terence. “Supposing you get caught yourself? The Head isn’t going to give you a second chance, you know. It’s asking for trouble.”

“I’ll have to go,” said Rouse, “because all the trouble is my fault. I’ve brought enough on the school to justify me in trying to save them something. There’s another thing. This is the footer season, and according to you I’m captain of footer. This is my job.” He smiled disarmingly. “You can help too,” he added. “Go over to Seymour’s and find Saville. Tell him what’s up, and see if he can’t get Carr reported present until I can get him in.” 224He stood up. “There’s no time to waste. It’s nearly nine now, and if Henry’s idea is right every minute’s of value. Even if he’s back by now we may be able to stop him taking the stuff to Coles. I’m going out. You get across and find Saville.”

He moved to the door.

“Aren’t you taking a coat,” said Terence, “or a hat? It’s precious cold.”

“I’ll go as I am. At this time of night it’s less conspicuous. And I can get out by the pavilion—the way you and I used to go when we were kids.”

He waited one moment, as if wondering if he had forgotten anything, then he opened the door and went out.

Terence turned to Henry and looked at him in queer anxiety.

“You oughtn’t to have told him,” he said. “You ought to have told me alone. You might have known he’d want to go out. He’s nearly worried to death. He feels it’s his personal responsibility to Toby to make the chaps hang together and stick it out till he can do something for us. It’s getting on his nerves. All day long he’s moving amongst the chaps telling them to keep their pecker up. He can hardly keep still. In the face of news like this he was certain to go out and try to find the shocking little ass.”

Henry looked a trifle crestfallen.

“I thought he ought to be told,” he said.

“Yes, yes, I know,” retorted Terence. “But supposing he gets caught himself? Supposing he’s seen?”

Henry made a comforting grimace.

“If I know Rouse as well as I think I do,” said he, “he isn’t the sort of guy to go and get caught.”

225Terence slapped one hand into the other distressfully.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s just the sort of guy he is. He’s never made a plan since I knew him that ever went right.”

The Headmaster of Harley sat at his table, his elbows resting upon the handsome blotting-pad that graced it, and in his hands he held, with a curious, unnatural stiffness, a letter. His head was bowed a little, and his attitude was so very still that one who came unawares upon him sitting there might almost have thought that he had fallen asleep; but presently he moved his head and looked up and around him with a quick movement of uncertainty, as if the silence of that vast room were oppressing him. And if one might then have seen his face and noticed the setting of the deep lines upon it, one would have known the truth. Hard Roe was beaten.

The pages of history are crowded with the names of men whose rise to eminence was aided by daily self-aggrandisement, but there is no record of any one amongst them all whose besetting weakness did not sooner or later compass his fall.

If Hard Roe had ever properly understood this truth he had forgotten it long before it would have been of most use to him to remember it. For some few minutes he merely read the letter through and through, and at last, when he knew the words by heart, he found himself wondering whose influence lay behind it. He did not know the Governors of Harley well enough to understand how much they were likely to know of things at the school, and it never occurred to him at all that a man of Toby Nicholson’s stamp could have any means of influence at their councils. He was unaware how many parents might have lodged complaint against his 226ruling, or what influential Old Harleyans had sided against him. These were wheels within wheels which he could not understand. Now he was to leave. His term of government ended with the coming of the holidays. There was nothing in the letter that could properly offend. One might almost have thought that the regrets which it expressed were real. But there was nevertheless a coldness in its phrasing which succeeded tolerably well in conveying a stern rebuke. That he understood.

He braced his shoulders.

His mouth took on again a natural grimness.

He looked round the room over his spectacles with little jerky movements of the head, seeing no single thing save pictures in his mind’s eye portraying that phase of the future which was of the first importance to his personal pride.

In ten days term would be over. The probability was that the school would never know this sequel to the long fight until he had really gone. Rumours that he was not to stay might reach them during the holidays, but not until they reassembled for the Easter term and found that they had really triumphed would they be sure. His imagination presented him with a mental vision of how things would be then, and in the forefront of the picture he saw the boy who throughout the term had fought him, gloating over his fall. The flood-tide of Rouse’s popularity would carry him in wild idolatry to the top of the school. And Rouse would ascend, laughing bombastically at the memory of the master who had challenged his hold over the school and who had been defeated. He slowly shook his head in grave unhappiness. Always there had been strong in him a deep desire to make a reputation and to hold it throughout his life. He would like, after he had gone, that all honest fellows in the school should say of him that he delighted in every crisis to stand alone, 227that he had always taken them by surprise, that he had never done what they had counted upon him doing.

Now he was defeated. The school would say of him instead that all his life he had done wrong and that he had never been exposed till now. The bubble that would be pricked would not be Rouse’s but his own. He suddenly stood up. To be relieved of his post was not so terrible a blow as was the certain knowledge that he would be remembered by the school only as one who had been a three months’ wonder and who had failed. That was more than he could bear. He looked round the room in sudden petulance, and thought it stiff and unresponsive. The sober pictures and the heavy curtains were glaring at him stupidly. He moved hesitantly towards the door as if to escape from this environment. He wandered into the passage, came to the old oak door and swung it upon its hinges. The night air came round the corner, cooling his forehead with the touch of an old friend. He knew then what he needed ... the friendly solitude of the night. For perhaps the last time he would roam his provinces alone, fighting the black depression that was slowly weighing him down.

He came out on to the gravel path and looked up at Harley. Here and there lighted windows, out of true keeping with the school’s proud majesty, were winking at him as if in teasing. He turned across the football ground. The night air did not seem very cold. Indeed it served him rather well by clearing his troubled mind. So he was moving with hands clasped under his gown, his square-built head sunken between his shoulders, when his attention was suddenly distracted by a footstep upon the pathway by the pavilion just in front of him. He stopped and looked ahead, his chief hope an anxious one that he would not himself be noticed wandering about so 228oddly on a winter’s night without his hat. Only for one moment was he uncertain as to the identity of the young man who was passing. Then clear recognition came to him. That young man was Rouse. Funnily enough, he too was going his way without hat or overcoat, and the Head stared in perplexity. Next he considered the time.

His definite order had declared that no boy should be out of school after seven o’clock. This was defiance. He moved along the grass in the stealthy manner of a domestic cat. Rouse, engrossed upon his mission, never even turned his head. At last he came to a narrow gate that led into the roadway, and here he made a moment’s pause before he boldly scrambled over and set off unhesitatingly towards the town.

The Head had stopped to watch with eyes that were fixed and wide, and now he stood rooted to the spot, still staring tensely in the direction Rouse had taken. It was as though a star of hope had suddenly shone through the darkness of the night. The curtain had risen upon a dramatic scene that should prove the climax of the play. For ten days more he would still be Headmaster of the school. They had not yet taken from him the power to expel, and Rouse had played into his hands. Here was a way to win.

That sense of crushing defeat lifted from his shoulders as if by magic. He turned. Decision had come to him. He began to step out towards the school houses. He would go to Morley’s and ask for Rouse. At this hour every boy in Harley should be in his study or in his cubicle. There could be no conceivable excuse for Rouse. The whole of Morley’s should know that the Headmaster had been to the house and had found him missing. His sense of dramatic effect bounced around his heart. The school should have little enough to laugh at in his own 229departure after all. His wish might yet come true. It should not be by the folly of his government but by the outstanding boldness of his last act that Harley should ever afterwards remember him. Before he left the school Rouse should be expelled.



The fight was very nearly over. One man was covering up with evident caution; his legs were almost giving way beneath him. The other was Johnny Winter, and Johnny was standing away and waiting for his opening.

They had said that he was too old. They had even thought it pathetically sad that a man who, in his prime, had been unbeaten champion at his weight, should be lured back to the ring after three years away from it to fight again. Some had supposed it was the bombast of the man who was at the top of the tree, and who claimed that not even Johnny Winter could have defeated him, that had tempted the master boxer of his day out of retirement. Others argued that the size of the purse that was up for competition had had the most to do with it. And they had all agreed that Johnny was foolish to have yielded to temptation. There was never a boxer in all the world who, when his day was passed, came back to the ring and fought again just as he had used to fight in his own hey-day.

So they had said. But all his life Johnny had known himself better than any of his friends had ever been allowed to know him, and he had believed that he was not yet too completely old to win one last fight. Now he had proved it. It was the fourteenth round and his man was done. Already Johnny was sparring for his final opening. It came suddenly. The other man uncovered and struck out with his 231right. In the twinkling of an eye Johnny had slipped in and swung up his uppercut with deadly accuracy. It landed with resounding force. The man reeled and fell. There came ten seconds of excited wonder. Then he was out; and the air was thunderous with a long crash of cheering for that quiet-mannered little man with the wispy hair and the patient, deep-set eyes who had undertaken to defend his name against a young man in the prime of life, and had won.

His seconds darted to Johnny’s side and lifted him up joyously in their arms. From every seat near by men had risen on to their toes and were reaching for his hand. Friends were elbowing their way towards him. In a moment they had closed round and he was hidden from sight. They crowded about him as he made for the gangway and went quickly through the cheering crowd that was blocking the way. And all the while those who were nearest to him could see that his expression never really altered. From the first round to the last he had fought with a clean and modest gallantry that was a natural part of him. Now that he had won he wanted only to escape from all the inevitable lionising that so troubled him. For a while he suffered them patiently, but he was longing to be allowed to go to his bath in peace. He had done merely what he had set out to do. Their praise was kindly meant, but he would be far happier alone.

So at last they let him by and he went gratefully into the dressing-room, said just a few quiet words to those old-timers who were waiting there to tend him, and passed into privacy.

When, therefore, a little boy came to the door of the dressing-room and asked for him, they shook their heads.

“Better go away, sonny. He won’t want to give no autograph. He just don’t want to be fussed. 232He’s fought his fight. You let him have his quiet sit-down. That’s worth more to Johnny than his picture rights.”

The little boy looked round them gravely.

“Would you just give him this?” he said at length. “I know he’ll see me. He’ll be angry if you don’t tell him I’m here.”

He waited a moment anxiously, holding the proffered envelope in his hand with an air of appeal. At last a man with a square head, closely shaven, and a perfect imitation of a cauliflower clinging to the side of it, reached out his hand.

“What is it?” he demanded. “What’s your name?”

“If you’ll just give him that,” said the little boy, “he’ll know.”

The man went slowly away, and when he came back his countenance wore an expression of complete astonishment.

“You’re to go in and see him,” he said resignedly. “And I’d like to know who you be. It’s the first time he’s ever said ‘Yes.’”

The little boy went quickly across the room and into the little cabin at the farthermost end. Johnny Winter was sitting down, and as the little boy came in, the man who had been tubbing his legs moved out of the way and disappeared. Then Johnny swathed a dressing-gown about him and stood up. He was frowning, and he spoke vexedly.

“Bobbie,” he said, “if I had thought you would have done a thing like this I would have made you promise. But I trusted you.”

Bobbie Carr stood proudly and faced him.

“I’ve never seen you fight in all my life,” said he. “I’ve never been allowed. And this is the last chance I should ever have. You taught me how to box, but you never let me see you fight in earnest. Now I have and I’m satisfied.”

233His father was looking at him with extraordinary sorrow.

“You were always ashamed that I should see you fight. You said that I should get wrong ideas. I’m not ashamed. I’m proud.”

His father made a quick movement with his hand.

“You’ve never understood. I’ve had to think for you. All my life I meant you to go to a Public School and mix with the sons of gentlemen. I meant you to have the chance to become what I have never been. I’ve saved and worked for your education. I meant you to be a gentleman, and if the boys at your school or the masters there ever knew that you were the son of a bruiser—they’d call it a smudge on your name. That’s why I made you promise. It had to be our secret. And so that no one that you mix with should ever see you with me at the ringside, I’ve never let you come to see me fight. I retired before you ever went to Harley to make quite sure. But lately I’ve been afraid. I began to wonder if I had saved enough, after all, to give you a fair chance. And then they offered this purse, bigger than any I’d ever fought for in my life, if I’d come back. I never imagined for a moment that you would come here to see me. I thought you were safe at school. But you’ve come. You haven’t played the game. The secret will be out. Somebody is bound to have seen you. You would be very conspicuous in a Harley cap. When you go back to school they’ll know. It’s what I’ve always been afraid of. They——”

“I’m not going back,” said Bobbie quietly.

His father stared at him with glassy eyes.

“Not going back? Why? What’s happened? You haven’t been expelled?”

“No. But I’m not going back to a place where I have to be ashamed of my father.”

234Johnny took hold of his arm.

“Who did you ask if you could come?” he demanded. “What reason did you give? Does your Headmaster know that you came to see your father fight for money?”

“I didn’t ask,” said Bobbie. “I ran away.”

There was a moment’s heavy silence.

“You ran away?” his father said at last. “How? Who paid your fare?”

“I did. You gave me much too much money. You thought I needed far more than I did. I never spent half of it. I saved it up; and it brought me here and paid for my seat.”

His father was staring at him dully, but now his eyes lit up again with sudden light.

“Nobody knows?” he said. “Are you sure? If that’s true we can get you back there to-night, perhaps, and they’ll never know you came. If nobody has seen you here, perhaps——”

“I’m not going back,” said Bobbie.

His father’s eyes met his evenly.

“You mean,” said he at last, “that you never want to be a gentleman? Is it that the dearest wish I have means nothing to you at all?”

“I’ll go to another school if you like,” said Bobbie in a small voice, “but I can’t go back to Harley. There’s somebody there who knows. He holds it over my head and makes me do things. It’s awful. I—I can’t go back.”

“Somebody knows?” His father was looking at him keenly. “Why have you never told me? Who knows?”

“Coles is there.”

For a moment his father was silent. He stood perfectly still, as a man will who is suddenly stricken with ill news. And at last his hands moved to his dressing-gown.

“I’ll get dressed. We’ll get away from here. 235Sit down for a moment. Tell me while I dress. What has he made you do?”

Bobbie began to talk. The secrets came out one by one.

“This afternoon,” said Bobbie, “I had to get him another bottle. And when I’d got it I came away by the train at seven o’clock. I was seen coming out. I can’t go back. If they’ve found out that I came up here I shall be expelled. And if they haven’t found out, and I managed to get in, then I shall have to go on doing whatever Coles tells me to.” He paused. “Next term,” he said presently, “Coles expects to be captain of boxing. How could I enjoy boxing with him as captain? Let me go to another school, father. Somewhere where nobody need know at all if you don’t want them to, but not to a place where I have to keep the secret by being contemptible.”

His father was dressed and he did not look at him at all. He just took his arm and began to lead him out through the crowded room. Everywhere men were calling to him. Johnny took no notice. He just made a gesture of farewell and went out into the street with Bobbie.

“There may be a means,” he said at last. “Perhaps I can think it out. It’s a terrible thing to run away. You’ll have to go back. If none of the masters know you came there may be a way to get you back. Who was it saw you leave?”

“It’s a boy who wouldn’t tell,” said Bobbie. “But I——”

He stopped abruptly. A man had come upon them from behind, and now his hand reached out and was resting upon Bobbie’s shoulder.

Bobbie turned with a start, and as he looked up he knew the sudden shock of a man ducked suddenly in cold water. For the first time since he had left the school he felt the touch of guilt, not for his father, but 236because by a freak of Fate it was Mr Nicholson who had found him out. Toby it was who stood looking down at him. He knew as well as any boy that it was through Toby’s influence that the fellows at Harley had been persuaded to stick it out without making a cock-shy of the school. And finding him unexpectedly at liberty in London, Toby would not understand the truth. He would think that he, Bobbie Carr, had been the only boy in Harley who had given in.

There was a short dramatic silence. Then, as Bobbie looked up once again, wondering whether he ought to speak or whether to leave this to his father, he noticed a most remarkable fact—i.e. Toby was smiling. What made this more remarkable was that he was smiling not at him but, funnily enough, at that quiet-mannered little man, his father. And as Bobbie watched he slowly held out his hand.

“You won’t remember me properly,” he said, “but I haven’t forgotten you, Johnny Winter.”

Johnny had been looking from one to the other in acute distress, but now a memory was suddenly awakened within him, and he took Toby’s hand and looked and gently nodded his head.

“Why, yes,” said he. “Yes, certainly I remember you. It’s Mr Nicholson. You used to come in and box with us when we were training at Harrow, and again at Brighton.”

Toby tapped the little man upon the shoulder with an emphatic forefinger.

“I used to come in and box with you and those other fellows wherever and whenever I could. You taught me more about boxing than any man of my size I ever came up against. Do you remember——” He broke off. “My word, that was a great show to-night, Johnny. I wouldn’t have missed that fight for worlds. I want to congratulate you.”

He stopped. Johnny was looking at him with 237quaint solemnity. Then the thought of Bobbie seemed to recur to him, and as he turned to fix him with a reproachful eye Johnny said:

“This is my son.”

Toby gave not the least sign of surprise. The closest observer could not have told whether he had already guessed. His whole bearing was guided by an affectionate appreciation of the reasons which had prompted Johnny to speak so shyly. So he looked at Bobbie with a slow smile, and then back again at the straight-backed little man whom they had thought too old to fight. Johnny stood with his soft hat set squarely upon his head in a way that spoke of quiet respectability. His solemn countenance was a little anxious and one eye decidedly discoloured.

“Then I am very, very glad,” said Toby, “more glad than I can say, that you sent him to Harley.”

“It was because I knew that it was your old school,” said Johnny, with a little nod of the head, “that I did send him there. And is it that you are a master there yourself now?”

“Until a few weeks ago I was games master there.”

“Then you have left?”

“I am on a little holiday.”

A new light of hope came into the little man’s eyes. He was clearly seeking for words.

“I wonder,” he began, “if you could possibly help. My boy has come away from school without permission. He came against my wishes and without my knowledge to see me fight.”

Bobbie looked up at Toby straightly.

“It’s the last time he’ll ever fight, sir. I should never have had another chance. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen him in the ring. And I had to come.”

Toby began to nod his head absently.

“Yes, of course,” he confessed, “you had to come. 238So should I have had to if he had been my father. Only why didn’t you ask permission?”

Johnny broke in quickly.

“You don’t quite understand, of course,” said he, “but the Headmaster of Harley knows me only as John Carr. It would be impossible to let it be known that a boy at Harley was the son of a professional boxer. I—I wanted to give him every possible chance in life. My one ambition is to see him a gentleman. What chance would he have if he were held down always by the shame of my trade?”

“What shame?” demanded Toby.

Johnny made a deprecating gesture.

“You understand,” said he, “one does not meet professional pugilists in the homes of gentlemen, except as curiosities.”

Toby looked at him inscrutably.

“My son has run away. Unless I can get him back there will, of course, be an inquiry, and I shall need to come forward. The papers will sooner or later get wind of it and the facts will come out. When once it is known that a bruiser sent his son to a Public School and that he ran away, I shall never be able to get him into another school in England, except as a notoriety. Is there any means at all by which you could help me to get him back?”

“I’m not going back,” interrupted Bobbie, with sudden emphasis.

They turned to look at him.

“Why not?” said Toby, in astonishment.

The boy was silent, but Johnny spoke up.

“You must tell him, Bobbie,” said he. “If we want help from Mr Nicholson we must tell him everything. There’s a young fellow at the school, Mr Nicholson, who happens to know the secret that we’ve tried to keep, and by threatening to tell it he has made Bobbie do things that he shouldn’t have. No doubt this fellow will guess that the boy came up 239to see me fight, and even if we should get him safely back to-night perhaps he will say now that unless Bobbie does this or that for him he will report his absence to the Headmaster.”

Toby was looking from one to the other thoughtfully.

“How did this boy come to know you at all then, Johnny?”

For a moment the little man hesitated. At last he began to explain.

“His father had money. There was a time when he acted as my backer, and as I won my fights he made a very good profit. Then he came to me one day and proposed a put-up job. He wanted me to fight a man and lose. It was to sway the betting to his advantage. But I told him what I thought of him and he never backed me again. I didn’t care for him to. This son, from what I know, will be much the same as the father, and he knows well enough my history.”

“His name would be Coles,” said Toby.

The little man looked at him in surprise.

“You know him?”

“Very well indeed,” said Toby. “Strangely well.”

There came an interval of silence. Toby appeared to be considering. At last he looked up.

“You are the father of a boy at Harley, Mr Carr,” said he. “Do you know all that has been happening there this term?”

“Bobbie has told me,” said the little man. “I am very sorry.”

Toby nodded his head.

“The storm is nearly over, and now there is next term to consider. I am not sure how much Harley’s reputation as a sporting school will have suffered by the events of the present term, but the probability is that an impression will spread that we shall take 240some little time to find our feet again. Not much will be expected of us at Aldershot, for example. It will be known that our professional was sent away. Yet it will be at Aldershot that we shall have to retrieve our good name. To recommence football and try to catch up next term would be unwise. We never do play football in the Easter term, nor do many of the other schools we play, and in any case we should be a term behind everybody else in combination. It will be better to let this stand as a lean year at football, and instead we must send such a team to Aldershot as has never been turned out by any Public School before. All the enthusiasm that has been stored up this term must be called out. We must go boxing mad and sweep the board. If any critics think that a term’s ill fortune can hold us down we shall show them that they are mistaken. This will be possible because the Headmaster who ruined our football season is not coming back.”

He paused. The father and the son were peering at him intently. A look had come over Toby’s countenance which would have told those who knew him best that he was following a particular train of thought and that he had led up to the crucial point.

“Do you want your boy to go back to Harley to-night, and box for the school in the biggest year in their history next term, Mr Carr?”

Johnny turned slowly and looked at Bobbie, then back at Toby.

“For the last five years I have been counting the days to the time when my boy would box for a Public School at Aldershot,” said he.

Toby smiled. He took a step forward and laid his hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“Coles is expecting to be captain of boxing next term,” said he. “What do you say to that?”

For a moment Johnny said nothing. At last he looked up.

241“I can hardly imagine a worse boy in the school to be a captain than Mr Coles’ son,” said he, “and if there is anybody else——”

“There has got to be somebody else,” said Toby. “If we let Coles be captain we might as well chuck up the sponge. And there is somebody else.”

“Then,” asked Johnny reasonably enough, “why will they not elect him captain?”

“Because he cannot box.”

There was a brief silence. At last Toby drew a deep breath.

“I am going to get a car and take your boy back to Harley,” said he.

“Will you be able to get him in?”

“If he has not been reported absent by the time I get back,” said Toby, “I will get him in. It is a service for Harley. We need him to box in the feathers for the school next term. And here is the bargain. If I get him in, will you in return do something yourself for Harley, a secret service of your own?”

“What is it?” asked Johnny.

“If I introduce you to a boy in the holidays, Johnny Winter, will you teach him to box, and to box well enough to justify the school in electing him captain of boxing next term?”

Johnny looked dubious.

“In three weeks?”

“You are a man who could do it,” said Toby. “And you see what it means. If Coles is elected captain Harley is doomed. If this fellow can keep him out the whole school will follow him, and there will be such a wave of enthusiasm for boxing that we shall knock all the other schools sideways at Aldershot.”

The little man slowly shook his head.

“He would want to pay me,” said he. “He wouldn’t understand. The whole school would know that Bobbie’s father was a pug.”

242Toby made an almost angry gesture.

“When Rouse understands that you are the father of a boy at Harley,” said he, “he will understand the honour that you will be doing him.”

The little man stood looking into the distance. Toby spoke again.

“The time’s getting short. I’m going to take Bobbie back. You get along home to bed. You must be tired. Will you meet me in town to-morrow, and I shall be able to give you news of your boy?”

Bobbie looked from one to the other quizzically. The question of his return to Harley seemed to have been decided for him. There was little to be gained by saying again that he would not go back. Besides, it would be different now. The Old Boy who had been on secret service for Harley would be watching over his interests. That inconvenient secret was not now entirely his own. He would not need to worry about his father’s name. If all went well, his father would save Harley from Coles, and Harley would understand when Coles told the secret what great work his father had done.

He looked up. Toby and his father were shaking hands in the ponderous manner of two men making a solemn compact, and the troubled doubting on his father’s face was passing into a sober, trusting smile as Toby spoke to him.



Hard Roe had become a changed man. In a single crowded minute he had thrown up the part of Napoleon Defeated which for a short while he had acted with very tolerable ability, and had assumed instead the character of a criminal barrister making his way to the Law Courts with secret and sensational evidence up his sleeve. His gown was ballooning proudly behind him, the tails of it kept aloft by the pace at which he moved. His hands were no longer gripping one at the other behind his back. Instead his arms were swinging vigorously from the shoulders as if to assist in propelling him to Morley’s before Rouse could return. His lips were parted, and such hair as he had was rustling upon his head like meadow grass before the breaking of a storm.

The bee-line which he was making took him, first, past the Rugby posts—mere symbols of a departed game—and here he struck the broad pathway along the outskirts of the playing fields. Where the way branched into two he came to Seymour’s, and he would have passed that tall house at his best speed, cutting the night air like a land yacht, had not a sudden clamour of excited voices, raised in consummate confusion, floated down to him from an upstairs window and distracted his attention. So he stopped and he looked and he listened.

The bright light in a window immediately above him, evidently that of a study, indicated without doubt the source of the commotion. For a little 244while he stood, his head thrown back, peering curiously towards it. There was no law against a light in a senior’s study at nine o’clock, but there could be no excuse for such disorder as was evidenced by those so wildly contesting voices.

At last he made up his mind. Enthusiasm prompted him to hasten upon his way, but allegiance to the dogma of unexpectedness was too strong. He glanced round him once, then fixed the front door with protuberant eyes, lifted the latch and went in. If Mr Seymour was out visiting some colleague, the occasion called for action on his own part. It might well be that this most memorable evening would grant him an all-round victory over the school on points.

He could not have chosen a more sensational moment to appear.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs a young man came dancing down. It may be that those who had been watching and who would have followed had peeped over the banisters in time and had withdrawn to make good their escape, but this one young man was in that condition in which loneliness is as nothing. He was singing raucously, and his manner of descent was like that of a low comedian on a sliding staircase. His hair was tangled and his countenance was flushed to fever heat.

The Head had drawn back as if in preparation for a suitably sudden appearance from the wings, but instead he slowly drew himself now to his full height. As if at one touch of a magic wand Hard Roe suddenly ceased to look merely a silly old man. He was transformed into a lonely monarch in a terrible predicament. His rather grim face suddenly aged to that of a man who has faced all weathers and seen all things. The look that came into his eyes whilst he watched was not now merely one of anger or contempt; 245all thoughts had fled from his mind and left him cold and stricken, and his stare was testimony to the power of unexpectedness.

The young man was his son.

Time passed on leaden wings.

His son had stumbled once on the bottom stair and had swung forward towards the wall. As he righted himself Hard Roe moved out of the shadows to meet him, and they came face to face. At first the young man did not seem to comprehend the grim reality of it. He just stood swaying upon his heels and smiling at the old man kindly. Next he broke into cackling laughter.

“I can’t help it,” he confessed. “I’m—I’m drunk.”

Hard Roe threw out his hand and clutched him by the shoulder.

“Stand up! You are my son.”

Roe made a belated attempt to look apologetic.

The Head laid his other hand alongside the first and shook him savagely.

“Where have you been? Why are you like this?”

He was speaking through clenched teeth and his arms were trembling with the force of his passion. But there came only an unresponsive silence. If there is one particular phase of drunkenness at which one may best appreciate the beastliness of it, then it is at that moment when one perceives the subject looking around him as if in search of a convenient spot in which to be sick.

The Head removed his hands and they fell weightily to his sides. He began to jerk words incredulously at his son, as if his power of speech was somehow dislocated.

“You understand—you understand. You are the Headmaster’s son. You are captain of football. You came as an example to them. I——”

His passion slowly subsided. He began to grow 246hard and isolated, impregnable. Once he heard a hurried scuffling upstairs as if someone were hiding away all traces of carousal and vanishing quickly from the scene. Now the whole house was very still. He had an implicit belief that even if the banisters were not lined with the heads of inquisitive boys, at least every member of the house was listening at an open door, and he knew that they would be wondering what Hard Roe would do at this, the crisis of his life. He knew that he must not hesitate. He gave his son a final shaking.

“Have you no explanation at all?” he begged. “Have you nothing whatever to say to me?”

The boy could find no proper answer. His eyes were closing sleepily. He had propped himself against the banisters. The final exhilaration that had sent him downstairs in that eccentric dance had deserted him, and a feeling of giddy biliousness had come in its place. He shook his head with a comical slantwise motion.

Above the many conflicting emotions in his mind now the Head remembered his reputation. Throughout his life, whenever he had been in doubt, facing two roads, he had taken always that way which he felt he would not be expected to take. Now the unexpected had, in its turn, come upon him with a rush. Once again two ways lay open to him, and he knew now that the way which would be the unexpected way would be a way that was terribly hard, albeit absolutely just.

He suddenly tilted up his chin. A glare of dour pugnacity had settled upon his features as if in token of decision. Then at last he spoke, and his voice was resolute and even.

“There is one law in this school, and I show no favour. It was you that I brought here as an example to a school which knew no discipline. Now it is as an example that I shall have to send you away. 247You are expelled. To-morrow you leave this school in disgrace.”

He stopped.

In all the house there was not one solitary creak. The silence was absolutely cold and merciless. And then at last a footstep sounded in the portico. Mr Seymour was coming in. The Head turned and looked at him with a lofty dignity. It was as if he wanted the position to be perfectly clear to the other before he spoke. Then when Mr Seymour had looked dazedly first at the boy and then at the Head, Hard Roe spoke up.

“Please have this boy taken to bed at once,” he said gently. “I have expelled him. To-morrow he will leave the school.”

He moved to the open door and, reaching it, passed out, whilst Mr Seymour still stood looking fixedly at the boy as if he could not believe his eyes.

He went out into the dark with his head a little bowed and his hands tight clasped again behind his gown. So he made his way slowly back towards the distant school, and now the night seemed very chill. There was no longer any attraction in seeking Rouse. Rouse was saved. Hard Roe’s part at Harley was played. The last act was done.

It might very well have ended in his son leaving with him, proudly and almost in disdain. That could not be now. Had he allowed his boy to stay on to the end of term and then to leave quietly whilst he expelled Rouse, the name of Roe would have stood for ever in disrepute. It was his duty to do all in his power to save that name. However keenly the school disliked his character, they would know now that he had at least been true to it at the crisis of his life. His prophecy would perhaps come true.

It might, after all, be the outstanding boldness of his last act by which the school would ever afterwards remember him. He had very nearly forgotten 248how badly he had wanted that to be so a short while back.

At last the Head passed through the old oak door again and back into his own room. Then it was as though the veil of night fell gently over the confines of the school. Here and there, in the haunts of the privileged, lights still glittered for an hour or so, showing that some were still up and about in Harley; but in the houses and the body of the school they vanished one by one, as if the gusty wind were scurrying on its rounds and looking in at windows to blow them out.

A full hour passed before the figure of one who was weary and inordinately cold appeared with decided caution at the little gate beside the school pavilion and, climbing over, began to trudge disappointedly along the line of trees right round the outskirts of the playing fields towards Morley’s. It was Rouse, and he had both hands rammed into his trouser pockets and the collar of his coat turned up around his neck. There was an atmosphere about the school that was unusually lonely, and he felt it. His errand had proved utterly fruitless. He had no particular idea how he was going to get in again. He missed the company of Terence. His intention to keep in the shadows was taking him a long way round and he was in no mood to enjoy the walk. Altogether things were rotten. At last he came to Morley’s and stopped to look up for a moment at the forbidding walls. Then he moved with a kind of ill-humoured curiosity to the hall window. There came back to him the memory of a night of long ago when he and Terence had as youngsters crouched below that selfsame window to find themselves locked out, and how at last a small boy had tiptoed down the stairs to their rescue, had opened the window without a word and let them in, and had then gone peaceably 249to bed. That small boy had been Henry Hope.

Rouse gazed at the window now with the affection of an old friend. Terence must surely have made some plan to effect his entry without his having to ring the front-door bell. His hand reached out and passed cautiously across the window-pane. Then he seized the framework and tried it gingerly. Without a moment’s delay there came the sound of a gentle movement within, and he perceived a long arm reaching towards him behind the glass. Next the window was slowly raised and a tousled head of hair was thrust out into the night. Rouse raised himself on to his toes and inclined his body forward.

It was Terence, and he spoke in a hoarse whisper.

“Don’t make too much row. Has anybody seen you? Have you had any luck?”

Rouse levered himself on to the window-sill and poised there miserably for a moment before he answered, and even then he did not speak. He just shook his head dismally and scrambled in. And then he sneezed.

Terence seized him in a steely grip and thrust a handkerchief violently into his face. But Rouse freed himself vexedly, listened a moment for any sign of alarm, and then proceeded, in the time-honoured manner of all who keep late hours, to remove his boots.

He turned once before beginning to climb the staircase and looked thoughtfully through the darkness at the shape that was Terence.

“You have not,” said he softly, “such a thing as a hot drink concealed about your person, I presume?”

Terence slowly lowered the window and secured it with the latch. When he turned he shook his head regretfully.

“Thank you,” whispered Rouse. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

250Next moment he was making his way nimbly upstairs. Terence looked round him once, then followed after. The warmth of a bed had become a strangely appealing thought.

For two hours Harley had slumbered. The last good-nights had all been said. The last lights had been snuffed. Only the great clock over the school, vigilantly marking time like the ghost of some soldier of the king, was still awake and looking far out into the country, when a car came droning down the highroad, branched along the fork that led past the playing fields and stopped beside the school pavilion. There was a moment’s muttered conversation, then out of the car stepped Toby Nicholson. He turned once to the small figure wrapped in rugs that was still reclining in a corner.

“You understand?” he said. “Wait here till I’ve spied out the lie of the land. Then I’ll come back and fetch you. I may be some little time, but you must wait.”

Bobbie nodded his head obediently, and Toby turned and scrambled over the narrow gate into the school grounds. Off he set along the line of the trees, stepping, had he but known it, almost in the very footprints that Rouse had left in his tracks. He went swiftly, and at times, with a furtive glance around him, he left the shadows and slipped across the open to cut a corner. At last he came to Seymour’s and here he stopped, just as Rouse had stopped at Morley’s, and glanced up at the windows. Everywhere the blinds were drawn. There was not one solitary light. He had expected as much, and now he had to come swiftly to a decision. By hook or by crook he intended to get into the house and rouse Mr Seymour. There were several ways and means. He could ring the bell or batter upon the door with his clenched fists until he was answered. He could 251throw stones at windows. These methods would, however, necessarily excite undue commotion, and this Toby determined to avoid. Since nothing much could be accomplished before morning by those within, there existed the alternative, of course, of camping out under the trees until the first greyness of the dawn broke through the night, and surreptitiously slipping Bobbie into the house at the first opening of the door, if necessary with the connivance of a servant. On a winter’s night this solution was, however, emphatically inconvenient. There remained, therefore, the only really sound means of entry, that of the break-in. Without any great hesitation Toby decided upon this latter. He had once committed a burglary for the benefit of the cinema, and he saw no valid reason why he should not break into Mr Seymour’s bedroom for the benefit of the school. He cast an inquisitive eye at the window behind which Mr Seymour would be sleeping, and considered the question of the ascent. Mr Seymour was a quiet, rather faded gentleman who affected a hat-guard all the year round and who looked upon school life from the scholarly rather than the magisterial standpoint. Above all, he hated to be bothered.

Somewhere within him Toby cherished a distinct affection for this old-fashioned gentleman, and he was aware that this was reciprocated. To how great an extent, however, this esteem would be affected by his entering the gentleman’s room by the window at one A.M. he did not care to surmise. He made a brief inspection, then secured a firm hold on the drain-pipe, collected a bunch of ivy in the other hand, and commenced to climb. At first his progress was slow. By skilful work he nevertheless rose foot by foot until he at last reached a window on the first floor parallel with Mr Seymour’s own. He swung on to this window-ledge and gravely considered 252the prospect of his being able to move sideways across the face of the wall. So far as he could see there was only one practicable route. He must climb to the story next above, make use of the attic window-ledge, and swing from here to the window immediately above his destination. From here he could drop from his hands and land neatly and daintily, like the falling petal of a flower, upon Mr Seymour’s window-sill. This he did with delightful grace.

Five minutes later the blade of his pocket-knife was moving gently between the upper and lower halves of the window, and after a moment’s work he had pushed the catch carefully aside. He paused then for a moment, like the look-out in the crow’s nest of a ship, to gaze down and take in the surrounding view. For the first time in his life he was clinging to the wall of a house in the loneliest hour of the night and about to break into a gentleman’s apartment. He sighed happily as a man will who delights in new experiences, turned inwards and slowly raised the lower half of the window. Then he stepped into the room and sat down on the inner window-ledge. The blast of cold air which his entry had introduced had an almost immediate effect in a noise of pronounced discontent from the recesses of the room. As his eyes grew used to the dark he dimly perceived a long arm reaching a bunch of blanket and drawing it gratefully about the pillow. Toby collected himself for discovery. The terrifying thought flashed through his mind that he might possibly have come to the wrong room. Supposing that by some freak of Fate Mr Seymour chanced to have changed his quarters during the last few days? He cast a hurried glance at his only means of escape, then steeled himself for the worst and spoke:

“Mr Seymour.”

At first there was no reply. It was difficult to 253know, however, whether this was because Mr Seymour was not yet awake or whether he was endeavouring to decide what to say in reply. At last Toby repeated his salutation.

Mr Seymour woke in a sudden convulsion of uncertainty, shuddered a great many times, and spoke.

“What?” said he. “Oh, please—for goodness’ sake do shut that door.”

Toby considerately closed the window.

“May I switch on the light?” he inquired. “Shall I fall over anything?”

“Whatever is it?” sighed Mr Seymour. “Put on the light, yes. Really, I—— Who is it wants me? I——”

Toby stumbled across the room, cannoned violently into the bed and, reaching the switch, at last flooded the room with light. As he did so he explained himself briefly:

“It’s me—Nicholson.”

Mr Seymour peered at him dazedly.

“Nicholson? Why, yes, I see it is. But how very odd. Do you know, I quite thought you’d gone away. Quite. I must have been dreaming. How very strange.”

Toby approached and sat down pleasantly on the bed.

“I did go away,” he confessed. “But you know how a felon always returns to the scene of his crime. As a matter of fact, I have just come in through the window.”

He paused a moment as if to allow this information to sink well in. Mr Seymour took the news oddly. He just sat up in bed and looked as if he were about to weep.

“What time is it?” he demanded. “Dear me, how troublesome a night! It seems only a few minutes ago that I was having a boy put to bed. Whatever is it now?”

254Toby leaned over him.

“Were all your boys present to-night?” he inquired. “Was anybody reported missing?”

The other grew visibly perplexed.

“Really, I can hardly say. So much has been happening to-night. No doubt you have not yet heard——”

Toby waved the point aside.

“I may have done you a good turn. I hope so, anyway. One of the youngsters in your house has been bullied into getting whisky for someone amongst your seniors, and at last he’s kicked. So this evening he ran away.”

“Good gracious me!” exclaimed the other, “who’s run away? Why, only this evening I have had——”

“Fortunately,” said Toby, pressing on hastily, “I came across him myself and I have been able to lead him back to the fold. It may be in time for you to take this matter of the whisky in hand yourself before anything comes out about it.”

Mr Seymour rose a little farther out of his bed and pointed at Toby excitedly. He was suddenly very wide awake.

“You say this boy ran away? I am not surprised. This evening a boy was found in this house drunk, and he was expelled.”

“Expelled?” repeated Toby, cocking one eyebrow in surprise. “By the Head, do you mean?”


“Who was the boy?”

“It was his own son,” said Mr Seymour, and drawing himself completely out of bed he began to feel for his slippers. Suddenly he looked up with a jerk.

Toby was still staring at him thoughtfully.

“He found his own son drunk?”


“And nobody else?”

255“Apparently not,” said Mr Seymour. He stood up. “Nicholson,” he demanded, “who is this boy? And,” he added, “how on earth did you get into this house?”

“His name is Carr,” said Toby. “And I came in via the window. I crawled up the wall.”

Mr Seymour approached the window, looked at it incredulously, then opened the lower half and peered out.

“It is a nasty drop,” he declared.

Toby moved to the window and stood beside him.

“Yes,” said he. “It looks worse from here. Nevertheless that is how I got in. Those pieces of cloth you see there hanging on nails amongst the ivy are pieces of my trousers. In other words, you have been burgled.”

“But why on earth didn’t you ring the bell?”

Toby tapped him upon the shoulder.

“The boy who ran away is outside in a car. I thought you would rather we got him in without attracting attention.”

“But, goodness me,” said the other, “a number of boys in the house will know that he was out. What will be the excuse?”

“The other boys in the house,” said Toby, “know a great deal more about what’s been going on than you do. You can bet your life on that. And after this evening’s little entertainment there won’t be many who won’t understand the truth. My advice to you is to let him come in and go to bed without a word. You yourself need know nothing about it.”

Mr Seymour was looking at him dubiously.

“The reason I say this,” Toby explained, “is that it means a lot to the school if we can come through this term without the spirit having been knocked out of any single boy by the Head’s idea of 256justice. It won’t be quite so satisfactory if this youngster should be found out. It’s the last lap, too, Seymour. In another ten days term will be over.”

He paused.

“There will be another term following after,” said Mr Seymour gloomily.

Toby nodded his head.

“Yes,” he admitted; “but it will not be quite the same. Next term the Grey Man is coming back.”

He smiled. Mr Seymour gazed at him with open mouth.

“Are you sure?”

“I saw him yesterday,” said Toby. “But it is better that the school as a whole should not know just yet. If one thing rather than another would send Harley completely off its head just now it would be the rumour that the Headmaster was defeated and that the Grey Man was coming back. Well, we must play fair. There is something about the Head that at times makes him almost likeable in his loneliness. Now the only ally that he had has let him down and the Head’s done the right thing by expelling him. There will be hard days coming for the Head, and, after all, you and I are masters and have a master’s point of view. I fancy the Head knows his fate already, but I think that we ought to respect his position to the end. It’s up to us to let him break the news when he feels ready. Don’t you think so?”

Mr Seymour nodded his head.

“It makes a difference,” said he. “I had always rather looked upon you as an Old Boy pure and simple, Nicholson. But I see now that there is a little of something else in your composition as well. If you will go out and fetch this boy I will see that he gets in by the front door.”

257Toby held out his hand.

“I hope you’ll forgive me getting in by the window,” he said. “It was the only way. I’ll go out by the door now, though, and leave it unbolted for Carr. I shall see you again soon.”

“You will be coming back?”

“I am starting again next term,” said Toby. “See you then.”

With morning sensation came like a dust-storm to sweep Harley in its whirl and leave her spinning. The whole of Roe’s own house, of course, knew overnight. Those who had been asleep were violently awakened to be told. And in the morning the members of Seymour’s spread out fanwise and ran through the other houses before their breakfast, carrying the news.

At morning prayers there was some kind of hope that the Head would make an announcement revoking his selection of a football captain, and perhaps even acknowledging the claims of Rouse, but instead he came in without an indication of any kind that anything was untoward and faced them. His eyes roamed round the sea of their upturned faces. He noticed Rouse in the forefront, but Rouse did not look his way. Next his eyes turned upon the rebels of the Sixth lined up beneath his dais, each in a most devout and learned attitude, and finally he turned to Pointon and jerked his head at him. So Pointon’s voice broke the silence at last as he began to read.

When, later, the moment came for the Head to walk down the aisle between them, his gown majestically swinging, and to pass through the open doors before their shuffling dismissal to their classes could begin, he walked with a quick and irritable step, and it was not until he had reached the quiet of his own room that he remembered one saving thought in his bitter sorrow. They did not yet know that he 258himself would, at the end of term, leave them in triumphant possession of their own unwritten laws.

One master and one boy were, as we know, in the secret, but the boy had honourably promised not to speak of it to anyone in the school, not even to Rouse or Terence or Henry Hope.

“It is not your secret,” Toby had said. “You have stumbled upon it, and so it is not yours to tell.”

In Seymour’s they had looked at Bobbie curiously in the morning, and a great many boys of his own age had gathered about him to satisfy their curiosity by asking questions. But he had smiled at them and shaken his head.

“I went out for someone and I was late back,” was all he would say; “but I got in all right.”

For the rest, he let their imagination carry them where it would. Rouse came upon him and he too would have begun to question, but Bobbie gave him a note from Toby and this appeared to afford him wholesome satisfaction.

For a little while those who knew that Roe had found a friend in Coles wondered what part he had played in Roe’s downfall, and indeed curiosity as to which other boys from somewhere behind the scenes had really been responsible for his own son’s defection troubled the Head himself; but the awe in which he held his father effectually prevented Roe from turning King’s evidence. He went quietly, with abashed mien, intensely annoyed with his father for ever having fetched him from Wilton to become a puppet at Harley. Afterwards Hard Roe seemed almost to forget the incident, for he asked no questions of anybody in the school. It may well be that in certain respects his sense of pride was satisfied by the certainty that his iron justice would live in the memory of the boys he would leave at Harley long after he had gone, and that for this reason he preferred to 259leave things entirely as they were. By digging deeper into the mystery and dragging to light whatever other miscreants there were in Seymour’s he would seem to be finding excuses for his son by sweeping away a handful of other boys as bad as he on the grounds that they had led him astray, when his one expulsion would have all the effect that was necessary in curing the evil by making an example of the chief wrong-doer.

He had a distaste for excuses of any kind. His son should have been strong enough to stand alone. Instead he had sinned, and he could not pardon his son for drinking whisky on the grounds that another boy had given it to him.

Coles lived in considerable anxiety during those last long days, because he was unaware of the Head’s real attitude and quite uncertain whether, before he left, Roe had given him away.

He had Bobbie before him and extracted an oath of secrecy.

“If you breathe so much as a word of this,” he had said, “I’ll tell your secret too, and all the school shall know that a low professional pug has sent his brat to a school for the sons of gentlemen. Not only that. If you let me down I’ll see that your life here is a never-ending nightmare. Are you going to promise?”

“I don’t see any need to promise,” said Bobbie, “but I’ll do so if you like.”

Coles shook his fist angrily.

“I shall hold you to it,” he declared. “One word, and you’ll wish you’d been born dumb.”

Bobbie turned and left him. After all, there was nobody he would need to tell—now.

The last few days of term passed slowly. The most sensational thing that could have come about had happened. That which followed was only aftermath. To the last day they did not know how 260completely they had won the long fight, nor guess that when Hard Roe stood in the great hall and spoke to them of their Christmas holidays in a quiet and unemotional voice he was in reality bidding them good-bye.

He had not altogether the bearing of a man who had failed. It was rather that of a man who knew that he would leave his mark.



It was the first afternoon of the Easter term, and from his position beside the window of his study Rouse was staring steadfastly towards the distant boundaries of Harley. Presently he turned and looked towards Terence, who sat buried to the chin in a basket chair, with his feet upon the mantelpiece.

“I find myself to-day,” said he, “in a mood of the most blissful content. You, sir, can you tell me why that is?”

“No,” said Terence. “Unless somebody has mended that hole in your trouser pocket for you during the holidays and your locker key doesn’t fall through into your sock any longer. That used to irritate you a good deal last term, I remember.”

“That is not the correct answer,” responded Rouse. “And you will, moreover, be awarded one bad mark for your stupidity. If you are going to have another shot, I think you had better stand half-way, with the ladies and the little boys.”

Terence turned away and snuggled deeper into the recesses of his chair.

“It leaves me cold,” said he.

“Then I will speak with more warmth,” snapped Rouse, “you poor frozen piece of fish. Let me tell you that you are what our American cousins would term a boob or bone-head. If you were to unhook your heels from my mantelpiece and come and balance yourself beside me for a minute, you would perhaps understand what I mean. Just now the Grey Man 262passed along the top road going towards Mainwright’s. When he had gone I found myself casting my eye around the old estate, and I may assure you, young Nicholson, the place did not seem the same.”

“You were looking at it from a different angle,” explained Terence. “It’s that squint of yours. You never know where you’re looking half the time.” A brief silence followed. At last Rouse came over to the fire and, standing beside Terence, placed his hands on his hips and began to explain.

“The Grey Man has come back and the good sun is shining once more over the old homeside. That’s what I mean, you flat,” said he. “When I look back,” he added after a moment, “it seems to me that two things stand out from amongst the events of last term. Passing over those bad times when we heard that Toby was to go and that house footer was to stop, and such good times as the Rainhurst match, the two things that I always remember first are the moment when I first knew that I was not to be captain of Rugger, and the moment when I realised that Coles was giving me a licking.”

“It is of some interest to me to know,” said Terence, “that you are actually able to think of two things at once. I was not previously aware that you could.”

Rouse took no notice.

“The fact that I am responsible for the dud year Harley has had at Rugger,” said he, “worried me a good deal until I had a chow-chow with your brother, and then I began to look forward to this term as I have never looked forward to any term before. Now I am really back again, and the Grey Man has returned. I tell you, Nick, my son, I feel good. In other words, I am chock full of beans.”

“That must be what I heard rattling about inside your head just now,” answered Terence, “though it sounded to me more like dried peas.”

263“The days which I have spent with Mr Carr have been some of the happiest of my life,” insisted Rouse, “and they have done me such a power of good that I am half inclined to catch you a severe clip on the head in token.”

Terence rose and stretched himself.

“Mr Carr,” said he, “is a white man. What do you make the time? I’ve an idea we ought to be getting down to the meeting.”

Rouse consulted his watch, moved to the window and looked out.

“Yes,” said he, “they’re beginning to show up. Foster and Pointon are coming down the road and Smythe is just going by. Give me your hand and we will tag along.”

As they left the house and started across towards the hall where the general meeting was to be held Rouse became peculiarly quiet. Once Terence turned to him and noted the brightness of his eyes, and Rouse looked up and spoke.

“I wish I hadn’t talked so much about my blissful content,” he observed. “I’m beginning to feel a bit different. It’s perfectly true that nobody who knows Coles wants him to be captain of boxing, and it would be a jolly good lesson to him if he missed it, particularly during a term when we’re going all out to smash the record, but it isn’t everybody who does know Coles.”


“And,” demanded Rouse, “why should they want me anyhow? I’m not the only fellow in the school who goes in for games. I had my innings last term, and I played it about as cleverly as a fellow who goes into a nursery to amuse a kid and promptly treads on his balloon. If anybody does mention my name at the meeting as a possible captain, the probability is that chaps will get up one by one and go out groaning. I should say that most of the fellows 264are sick to death of my name. That’s how I feel about it anyway.”

“You feel like that about it,” said Terence gently, “because you’re batty. It isn’t your fault. We must learn not to laugh at you for it. You just can’t help it. You’re batty, that’s all.”

“Not at all. I was as keen as mustard to learn to box, especially from a man like Mr Carr, but I’d just as soon box for the school like an ordinary chap as be stuck on top and made captain.”

“They want you as captain,” said Terence, “because the whole school will follow you and do whatever you say, and they want the whole school to go boxing mad. It may interest you to know that I intend to don the gloves and clout a few people myself in due course.”

Rouse shook his head.

“Everybody who’s spoken to me,” concluded Terence, “everybody who is anybody——”

“Nobody’s anybody very much,” observed Rouse, “after they’ve once been seen speaking to you.”

“Everybody who is anybody,” repeated the other indifferently, “has been enthusiastic about it beyond all expectations. They reckon——”

He stopped. They had come to the entrance to the hall, and Rouse made his way in and hurriedly deposited himself upon a convenient chair.

“Sit down,” he commanded. “Don’t stand up there staring. I don’t want any attention called to me at all. I feel about the most congenital idiot any human being could feel.”

Terence sat down.

“Are you quite sure you can see all right from there,” he inquired. “Shall I ask that pretty gentleman in front to take his hat off?”

“That isn’t a hat,” said Rouse, casting dull care aside in the swiftly changing manner that was his wont, “that’s the gentleman’s hair. He has it 265like that because he’s in the wool-gathering business. It isn’t quite the same colour as it used to be last term though, is it? There seems a faint suspicion of early autumn about it. He’s been reading that advertisement, ‘All handsome men are bronzed,’ I expect, and he thinks it refers to the hair.”

The gentleman addressed turned haughtily and addressed himself to Terence.

“Would you mind asking your little boy to be quiet,” he said courteously. “I find his remarks a trifle distracting, and I’ve paid for my seat the same as what you ’ave.”

“One of the curls is missing,” commented Rouse. “Is some lady the proud possessor, or has his little brother been playing with the shears? It gives the head a rather mothy appearance anyhow. Reminds me of a part-worn doormat more than anything else.”

“Oh, rub his face in a bun,” retorted the gentleman with the golden locks.

Rouse opened his mouth to reply but his final comment was cut short. Toby Nicholson had risen and there had come a respectful hush. Then, because it was his first official appearance on his return to Harley, cheering broke out. He coloured awkwardly and stood for a minute waiting the chance to speak, and eventually he began. He spoke just long enough to explain the position to them, and to remind those who might not have realised the fact that the school must certainly have suffered in reputation by the leanness of the term just past.

“The way to win back our name as one of the first sporting schools in England,” said Toby, “is not to attempt a late cut at a football season, but to put the whole of our heart and soul into boxing and the sports. For that reason you need a captain who can really lead the school into a record year. Boxing has always counted for more at Harley than at many other schools, and this term it must count as the only 266game worth while. We want every fellow in the school who’s capable to try his hand at it. Only so can we find the very best talent in the school.” He stopped. “Who is proposed?” he said after a moment.

Without delay a peculiarly villainous-looking youth rose from his seat and stood for a moment waiting.

Rouse nodded towards him.

“That lad has a nice open face,” he observed gravely.

“Open?” whispered Terence. “You wait till he laughs. It opens from ear to ear.”

There came the muffled sound of a suffocated guffaw, and at the same moment the terrible young man spoke.

“I propose Coles,” said he, “the senior old colour.”

“I second that,” declared another, rising swiftly from a corner seat.

There was a moment’s hesitation, then a totally different type of fellow bobbed up from a position close to Rouse. It was Smythe, and he spoke with vigour.

“Mainwright’s house have held a meeting to-day, and on their behalf I wish to propose that Rouse be elected captain of boxing.”

He offered no explanation. He just waited a moment and then sat down.

Forthwith Saville rose from beside Coles.

“Seconded,” said he.

There was a sweeping murmur partly of surprise and partly of assent, and then Toby looked round them quickly.

“Is anyone else proposed?”

It was evident that there was not. But the villainous young man who had spoken first rose in his seat defiantly and faced Toby.

“It is quite natural, sir,” said he, “that after 267last year’s disappointment some of the fellows should want to pay Rouse this compliment, but it is an unwritten law that the captain of any game shall always be the senior old colour of the game and, if possible, the best man at it.”

Next Pointon rose.

“Is it not a fact, sir,” he inquired, “that when one selects a captain one chooses a man with certain definite capabilities as a leader, and not necessarily the best man at the game? Sometimes the two go together, but this year we require above anything else the man who can get the very most out of the school. Is there any unwritten law which prevents Rouse being proposed in that capacity?”

Toby seemed about to answer, but there came instead a sharp surprise. Coles himself was upon his feet, just as when he had once before been frivolously nominated as captain of Rugger, and he was looking round them brazenly, as if by making a bold show he could effectually hide the fear that was in him. And this was the fear. Towards the end of last term it had become common knowledge in Seymour’s not only that he was sending a fag to get whisky for him from the town, but that, although he had been the prime instigator in the affair that had brought Roe expulsion, he had made no attempt whatever to help Roe or to alleviate his heavy share of punishment. In point of fact, he had slunk off. The school had begun to realise this and Coles knew it. The fear that it might possibly prevent his unanimous election as captain had troubled him during the holidays, but at such times he had found comfort in the fact that he could not see any suitable rival who could be sent up against him. He knew now the limit of their search for a man. The best they could find was Rouse, a fellow whom he had thrashed in his study. A scornful smile was playing about his lips. He began to speak.

268“Look here,” he said, “I wanted to keep out of this.”

That was how one might have expected Coles to begin. They listened to him listlessly. For a while he seemed to be idly chattering, as if seeking to make clear his own great modesty, but at last he came to the point. He was suggesting a fight. They listened now with pricked ears. A look of surprised delight had flashed into Toby’s eyes. Rouse was peering at Coles incredulously. But it was true. He was claiming the rights of an old colour.

“Before a man who has never shown any interest in boxing treads on all precedent and makes himself a dummy captain,” Coles had said, “other fellows ought to be given a chance to see what he can do. Let Rouse come into the ring. If he can beat me I shall be delighted to vote for him myself.”

He was rambling on pleadingly in this strain when it was suddenly noticed that Rouse too was upon his feet.

“I’m perfectly ready to fight you,” said he, “to-day.”

To the Grey Man Toby explained it in another light.

“It was what I had hoped might happen,” he said. “Because if we left it to an election they would elect Rouse, and that would leave Coles with a virtual grievance. But as it is, he himself has chosen this means of ballot, and if he is beaten now he can have no cause for complaint at all, and Harley will be the healthier for seeing a fellow whom they have at last summed up thoroughly well outed.”

The school gymnasium was packed from end to end. Wherever one looked boys of all shapes and sizes seemed to be piled one on top of the other to the level of the roof. Whoever had not properly understood the truth about Coles knew it now. 269The position was very clear indeed. All that had been whispered about him in the last days of the Christmas term had been true. The fellows in Seymour’s had admitted it. Coles had turned spy. He had palled up to the school’s worst enemy. He had bullied his fag. He had got whisky into the house and through him Roe had been expelled. He had done no single thing for which the school did not, now that they understood, condemn him with unutterable disgust. And Rouse was standing up to him now to fight him and, if he could, to give him the licking he so richly deserved, as a present from the school. Coles’ day of reckoning had come. Only one thing troubled them. No one could say how Rouse could be expected to win. It was true that they had such astounding confidence in his ability to do the seemingly impossible that this did not worry them very much. After all, he had won the Rainhurst match when it had seemed to be lost.

Yet even supposing he had spent his holidays learning to box so as to be able to rescue them from the dread results of Coles becoming their boxing captain, could he with a bare month’s practice really hope to defeat the man who had boxed for the school at Aldershot?

Coles was first into the ring. He came with a lofty and contented air, looking significantly round the crowded walls. Then he sat down and Rouse came into sight. The bearing of those whose only part was to look on was very proper. There was no hysterical cheering. Each man received a courteous round of applause. Toby Nicholson came to the ropes and told them briefly the object of the match. Once again clapping was the only evidence of their approval. The moments passed.

At last it was time.

In a breathless silence the two rose to their feet. Justice had turned to them now to hold the scales 270in a steady hand. They were meeting at last on level terms. No study walls hemmed them in. Their quarrel was to be fought at last fairly to a finish. Staring stolidly one at the other they met, and their right hands touched for a moment in token that the play was fair. Then they slipped suddenly into a ready stance and the fight had begun.

Now Rouse began to realise that the things Johnny Winter had told him must be true. That terrible nervousness that had been upon him for the last two hours had passed. Doubt and mistrust in his power to do this thing that the whole school were expecting of him had precipitately vanished, as Johnny had declared they would when once he was in the ring, and in their place had come, not overflowing confidence, but detachment.

His mind grew concentrated upon the immediate future in a way that entirely obliterated all that tensely watching crowd from the picture. He was isolated from them. He could not see things from their point of view at all. He only knew that he had been appointed by the school to deal punishment to one whom they had condemned, and the task had so tightened every sinew in his body that he was fretting to begin. It had become impossible to conceive defeat. Coles had come to the end of his innings and was faced with the reckoning of his score against the school. And he had to reckon now not with a miserable novice but with one who understood clearly how to use his fists. Rouse had learned no tricks. He had not even acquired the art of easy movement in the ring, but he knew how to stand and how to hit, and the straight left which was almost the only blow that Johnny had allowed him to rely upon was ready for its work. The moment that Coles’ hands were up Rouse slipped in. Coles waited for him, just as he had waited when they had fought in a study, ready to shoot in his counter the instant Rouse 271exposed himself. But times had changed. Rouse showed him one quick threatening movement with his right, and as Coles slipped to avoid the blow, there came at him like a piston, very straight from the left shoulder, a closed glove, hard and weighted like a loaded stick, and it thudded against his mouth and jolted back his head.

He reeled with astonishment, and jumped in with a vengeful counter, under a somewhat mistaken impression that the blow was a fluke. But he was met by a sure and classic guard that kept out every blow he knew; and the moment that he tired of trying and drew back to think things over, that left came out again and helped him on his way. And suddenly he understood. He had been trapped. His pride in the use of his fists had led him into a mad challenge, and the truth was shining from Rouse’s steely eyes. He read the message as many another bully has read it sooner or later in a bragging career. This man had him cold. Somebody had touched up the fellow’s dogged courage with a little science, and Rouse was no longer asking to be knocked out. For Coles it was going to be the fight of his life. He began to move nimbly about the ring, his feet slipping noiselessly over the boards as he tempted Rouse this way and that in the hopes of drawing him. But Rouse had been coached too well. He understood perfectly what this meant. Coles had not fought him this way before. His straight left had hurt Coles, and he was going to keep away.

Rouse began to move steadily towards him. Coles danced eagerly across his front, but footwork availed him little. Gradually Rouse’s left foot began to work its way in, and at last, when it was against Coles’ toe and he knew that a step would carry him within striking distance, he darted in, and his left went out again and smashed against the other’s face. There was a moment of grim excitement as Coles answered 272him with a rain of violent drives and uppercuts that displayed his temper, but at last it could be seen that Rouse was safely through the trial none the worse for wear, and that Coles was flushed with heat. For a while he drew back and waited, then as Rouse began to work in again with his guard well up and his chin covered by the point of his shoulder, Coles sprang up against him and bore him back. There was a brief grim tussle for supremacy at close quarters, and then out of the fury of the rally there gradually emerged the undoubted victor. Rouse had thrust his man away by sheer strength and had drawn back for a heavy blow. As Coles bored in again he struck out. The blow took Coles on the side of the chin as he bounded forward, and he just staggered sideways and fell in a heap.

For a moment he lay there. There was no applause. The silence was more telling. He lay puzzling out what to do, and then at last he got up and looked for Rouse with eyes that were ablaze with wrath. Rouse had waited for a sign that he was ready, and now, as Coles put up his hands, he walked in and began the real work that he had to do. So far he had merely steadied his man. The last blow had been the signal that this phase was over. The thrashing that he deserved was to come. Coles could box and it was difficult to work him into a corner, but his fiery temper was a decided help to Rouse, and at length he had Coles against the ropes, standing with legs apart and both gloves held in a threatening attitude of readiness. Rouse looked at him grimly and came in. For a moment there was a whirl of fists. Then just as before the better man emerged. A glove flashed up from his hip and almost lifted Coles off his feet with the force of its landing. Coles tried to answer with his left, but he was off his balance, and Rouse merely dodged back, then swung in again with the whole weight of his body behind his glove. 273This time Coles fell slowly, like a man struggling against unconsciousness, and at last when he hit the boards he lay still.

Rouse drew back, watching him inscrutably. Still there was no applause. Coles was not yet entirely done for. He had not yet been punished to the full. He got up groggily and stood waiting. Rouse moved in and struck him again. He rocked and tried to collect himself for a final effort.

For the crowd who stood watching it was a glorious moment. Once again Rouse had achieved the seemingly impossible. Coles stood there swaying in defeat and no man could rightly tell his thoughts, but at last, when he saw Rouse moving to hit him again, he leant forward and struck out with left and right as he came. One blow landed, but it failed to stop Rouse, and he came on slowly, relentlessly. His glove swung from the shoulder and landed against the other head with a thud. Coles began to fall. He made one effort to hit back. As he righted himself he exposed his chin, and Rouse let go a blow that carried every atom of his strength. This time Coles just threw out his hands, and dropped in a limp heap at his feet.

Rouse turned to his comer with a sigh of untold satisfaction. He had only one fear, and that was that Coles might recover in time to come up for another round. He wanted to have turned the tables on Coles with real effect. Coles had beaten him in one round.

For a moment he was in doubt. Then Toby finished counting and made a quick sign with his hand.

Coles’ second came into the ring and picked him up.

Rouse had won. Still there was no applause. He looked once towards Terence, but he gave no sign of real gladness. His feelings were part and parcel 274of the feelings of the entire school. A traitor had met with his deserts. There was nothing to clap about.

And then quite suddenly he realised his mistake. They had merely been waiting for Coles to be carried away. Now they had turned to him, and thunder began to roll from every side towards him. It grew and grew until the windows were rattling in their frames and the rafters of the gym. were trembling with concussion. Louder and louder it swelled. Wherever he looked hands were beating the air. He tried to make his way to the dressing-room. He was seized by strong arms and hoisted up. He tried to quell them. It was no good. The pent-up excitement of the last term’s end was too much for their control. Yesterday’s captain had become to-day’s. What could they do but cheer?

Across the playing fields there came a little man clad in a sombre suit and wearing upon his head a soft felt hat of great respectability. As he came he looked from side to side as if in doubt as to which road he ought to take, and so when he came within sight of the school gymnasium he stopped. Next moment a noise like the crashing to earth of some gigantic edifice shattered his very ear-drums, and he stood swaying for a moment, shaken from head to foot. At last he turned towards the building from which that vast explosion had appeared to come, and as his senses gradually reassumed their balance he realised that the thunderous echo of it was continuing. He began to walk on, his head turned in astonishment as he went, and as the noise grew and grew he stopped again, his blue eyes wide with wonder.

Then from the doorway of the gym. there came a stream of running youngsters, who turned in the open and waited for those behind to form a vast 275half-circle. Next he saw Toby Nicholson thrust out into the open by the weight of the mob behind him, and at last there came a kaleidoscopic mass of humanity tumbling out from the doors in a tidal wave, bearing upon its crest the boy that he had taught to box.

Then he began to understand, and so he slowly smiled.

He was still smiling like this when Toby disengaged himself and, seeing him, came across to shake his hand with extraordinary vigour.

“I have come as I promised,” said the little man, “because I have found the very man you want, and he is ready to start as your coach to-morrow if your Headmaster is agreeable. I thought I would come down and see him myself.”

“The Headmaster wants to meet you,” said Toby. “And you couldn’t have come at a better time. Your man has won.”

He turned to look for a moment quizzically upon the seething mob, and suddenly moved forward and beckoned to a tall thin boy who had detached himself from the crowd and seemed to be looking for his cap. This he recovered at last and came towards them.

“Hope,” said Toby, “I want to introduce you to this gentleman. He is Carr’s father and he taught Rouse to box.”

Henry looked at the little man over the tops of his glasses, the excited flush still evident upon his cheek and his breath still laboured. Then he solemnly raised his cap and held out his hand.

“I am very proud to know you, sir,” said he. “Your son has come back to Morley’s now and we are firm friends.” He suddenly turned his head. The scene was growing into one of indescribable commotion. He looked once longingly, then turned to Toby as if in pleading. “If you would just excuse 276me a minute, sir,” said he, “I really must go and cheer a bit.”

He went off with a sudden raking stride, shouting wild cat calls through cupped hands, and the little man turned to Toby.

“It would be better for you to tell them who I am, Mr Nicholson, than to let them be deceived,” said he. “You see—that boy raised his hat to me.”

Toby nodded his head.

“Yes,” said he, “of course. Any boy here always raises his hat to another boy’s father.”

The little man did not entirely understand.

“But,” he began, “a professional boxer——”

Toby stopped him.

“You taught Rouse to box,” he said, “and he knocked Coles out. I can’t explain any more. The fellows at this school will always raise their hats to you.”

“It makes me feel almost as if I were a—gentleman,” said Johnny simply.

Toby looked at him with a fond smile.

“Come to the Head,” said he, “and be introduced. You’ll understand better after you’ve seen him.”

Rouse sat in his bath.

The comfort of hot water wrapping him round was bringing to him a wonderful sense of restfulness and repose. The shouting had died away at last and he was alone. Somewhere he understood that the school were forming into a queue that stretched twice across the playing fields, waiting to give in their names as desirous of taking up boxing during the coming term. He looked ahead and he could see no single cloud upon the far horizon. The year was shaping its course for breaking record. He was amazingly content, and when at last there came a knock upon the 277door he turned in surprise and waited a moment before he said in guarded tones:

“Who’s that?”

“I’ve brought you a couple of hot towels,” was the answer. “I thought you’d like them.”

For a moment Rouse lay still, utterly and finally at peace with all the world. At last he replied.

“Terence, my boy,” said he, “you are not, all things considered, at all a bad old stick. One of these days I am inclined to think that I shall very probably learn to like you.”

It was, as we know, only in moments of the deepest emotion that Rouse ever called Terence by his proper name.




  1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
  2. Anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
  3. P. 153, changed "short interfere" to "short to interfere".
  4. The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.