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Title:      Jeremy at Crale (1927)
            His Friends, his Ambitions and his one Great Enemy
Author:     Hugh Seymour Walpole  (1884-1941)
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Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          December 2003
Date most recently updated: December 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Jeremy at Crale (1927)
            His Friends, his Ambitions and his one Great Enemy
Author:     Hugh Seymour Walpole  (1884-1941)





To my Brother ROBIN Affectionately




Tom . . . was a robust and combative urchin.

--Tom Brown's Schooldays.



PREFACE


Jeremy at Crale has been my single attempt at a school-story.  The
genre is not an easy one for the very simple reason that a school-
story can be only truly written by a boy who is still at school.
It is all very well for us to say that we remember, but the things
that we recall are for all of us the same things.  There is the
further difficulty that the sentiment of a boy's life is compounded
of elements very dangerous and difficult for analysis.  No one has
yet written in English an account of a boy's friendship that does
not appear either too emotional or too unemotional to be true.  Tom
Brown's protection of Arthur still appears to me a beautiful and
true thing, but Hughes was almost TOO manly in his admiration of
British Virtues.  I am not sure that Talbot Baines Reed in The Cock
House at Fellsgarth and other masterpieces did not strike the best
balance of any, but then he omitted all the psychology.

The fact is that boys are both little beasts and little heroes,
that the age of puberty is the terror of parents and headmasters,
and that no one dares to speak frankly, even in these frank days,
of what everyone knows to be true.  However, these are dangerous
matters.  I didn't write in Jeremy at Crale the school-story that I
would like to have written, but I did, I think, tell the truth so
far as I thought wise.

My chief satisfaction in it is that I feel that Jeremy survives it.
If he was alive when he went into it, he was alive when he came out
of it!  All the conventional things are there, the football, the
fights, the bullying, the friendships, and the rest.  It is a TRUE
story and not, I think, sentimental.

Meanwhile we await the schoolboy of genius who will tell us what
things are really like!

H.W.




CHAPTER I

THE FORTRESS


1


Young Cole, quivering with pride, surveyed the room.

So, at last, was one of his deepest ambitions realized.

It was not, when you looked at it, a very large room.  If, as was
the way with many of the other Studies, it had had a table in the
middle of it, there would have been precious little space in which
to move.  But he and Gauntlet Ma, almost at once after their
arrival last night, had come to an agreement about this.  They
would have their own tables in their own corners, leaving the
middle of the room free--and Marlowe could lump it.

Ma Bender had found two small (and exceedingly dirty) tables, and
the only thing that remained was to toss for the window.  They had
tossed and Cole had won.  Marlowe, of course, had the dark corner
near the door.

Young Jeremy Cole didn't dare to think what his feelings would have
been had he lost that toss.  He wanted that window terribly--nobody
in the world would ever know how badly--and for once in a way he
had been successful.  "For once in a way," because he always lost
the toss at everything.

He was alone in the room at last (he had hurried here directly
after Third School) and his intention was to arrange his table
before anyone came in.  He saw that Gauntlet had already arranged
HIS, that from somewhere or another he had procured a dark blue
cloth and a smart-looking writing-case.

Then, turning with a shock of surprise, he discovered that that
young pip-squeak Marlowe had arranged HIS--and what an arrangement!
There, in between the door and the farther corner, exactly fitting
into its space, was one of those old writing bureaux, Eighteenth
Century or something, with little drawers and twisted brass handles
and of a dark, shiny colour that even Jeremy, who knew nothing
whatever about furniture, recognized as handsome.  Moreover, above
this remarkable piece of furniture was a small, dark bookcase with
a glass front, and inside this were books with shining and gleaming
faces.

On the top of the bureau was a leather frame that contained the
portrait of a thin, severe, military-looking gentleman; there was
also a strange, brass figure of a squatting, malevolent-looking
image--Chinese or Hindu, something Eastern.

All that Jeremy could say was "Gosh!"

When had young Marlowe produced these things?  They weren't there
last night.  What side!  If young Marlowe thought that this kind of
swank . . .

But he turned, then, back to his own scratched and naked-seeming
table.  Large splashes of ink disfigured its surface.  The few
things that he had to arrange upon it--a dingy double frame
containing his father and mother, a very faded green blotter, one
of the school ink-wells and a photograph of the House Second XV of
last season--how miserable these seemed!

He was aware of acute and poignant disappointment.  And to think
that he should be disappointed so soon when, during the whole of
the preceding year, he had longed and longed for just this moment--
when by simple right of brains, industry and personality he should
be part owner of one of these Studies!  And here he was, and it was
dust-and-ashes in the mouth!

However, being Jeremy Cole, he very quickly recovered.  What, after
all, did it matter?  It was all very well to make a show on the
second day of the term, but what about the end of the first week?
Everyone knew that you couldn't, unless you were in the Sixth, or a
Games Captain, and had fags and a whole Study to yourself, keep
anything decent for more than a day or two.  What would Marlowe's
old bureau look like after one or two rags?  But were there to be
any rags in here?  He and Gauntlet had only last night sworn that
there should not.  They would keep the place decent and rag
elsewhere. . . .  Would they?  He couldn't be sure.  He wasn't even
certain of himself.  The very thought of young Marlowe's "side"
made him want to kick that bureau about.

However, there was always the window.  Jeremy turned to it and
sighed with contentment.  To the ordinary observer it might not
have seemed a marvellous view.  On the right was the great,
towering wall of Upper School and, lower down, jutting out of this,
the Upper Fives Courts.  In the middle distance was a square,
rather dingy space known as Coulter's Yard, and beyond Coulter's
the path that bordered the Upper Playing fields.  On the left were
the walls, red-bricked and creeper-covered, of Jeremy's own House,
Leeson's.

It is true that beyond the "Upper Games" (these were scarcely
visible because they shelved so swiftly downhill) were the tops of
trees, and beyond the trees again you could imagine the sea,
knowing as you did that it was inevitably and eternally there.

But, on the whole, not much for the ordinary observer.  Everything,
however, for Jeremy.

By opening the window and craning his neck he could have a very
good view of the Fives Court and, without craning at all, the whole
gossip and turmoil of Coulter's was visible to him.  Beyond all,
most of the real life of the school--masters, visitors and every
species of boy--passed at one time or another along the Gridiron,
the path beyond Coulter's.

A marvellous and all-engrossing view.  It was wonderful, when you
came to consider it, that Gauntlet had submitted so tamely to the
result of that significant toss.

But his table?  Could he not do something about it?  He would write
home at once and demand that a table-cloth should be sent.  And
then what about Uncle Samuel's funny picture that had lain for
three years, the period of Jeremy's sojourn at Crale, at the bottom
of his play-box!  Every holiday it had gone home with him and, as
he had always insisted on himself packing and unpacking that sacred
vessel, no one had ever discovered it.

To tell the truth he had been always ashamed of that picture.  Who
wouldn't be?  It might be ANYTHING.  Uncle Samuel said it was
"Sheep in a Field," but who ever saw sheep like little red dots and
lacking apparently both heads and tails?

Jeremy had too high an opinion of Uncle Samuel to leave it at home.
Someone would discover it and then Uncle Samuel would be hurt, but
no one in the school had ever seen it, and until now Jeremy had
resolved that no one ever should.

However, it had a rather nice thin, gilt frame.  People might
appreciate THAT, and who was there in Jeremy's set who knew
anything about pictures, anyway?

He turned once more to the window.  It was a lovely, early autumn
day.  Soft, white clouds hovered lazily about a sky shining with
sun.  The tips of the trees against the horizon shaded in shadowy
orange over a blue so faint that it was scarcely any colour at all.

But Jeremy didn't bother about the day.  Someone was coming into
the nearest Fives Court.  It might be Bates, and wasn't that
"Bunch" Halleran?

He was half out of the window, his legs hanging over the table.
The door behind him opened, and turning impetuously, his career was
nearly then and there terminated for ever.

Oh, all right; it was Gauntlet.  The excitement of what he had to
say carried him tumbling from the table to the floor, and the
impetus of his movement almost carried him into Gauntlet's arms.

"I say, Spikes . . .  Look here!  Look at young Marlowe!"

Gauntlet turned round, and he said what Jeremy had said:

"Gosh!"  Then he added, staring:  "It's rather ripping!"

"Spikes" Gauntlet was a little taller than Jeremy and a great deal
more handsome.  He was, in fact, a good-looking small boy, and, for
his tender years, something of a dandy.  There are certain small
boys who, through all the rough and tumble of their Jungle life,
are never dishevelled or untidy.  Their shining Eton collars are
always clean, their cheeks are never inky, even their nails are
grey rather than black--that is, if there ARE any nails.  The knees
of their trousers are never dusty, nor the seat thereof, and their
boots never yawn, nor do their socks tumble in cascades below the
ankle.

Such a boy was Gauntlet, and yet it would not be fair to say that
he held himself apart.  He was, on the whole, popular in spite of
his neatness, although not so popular as his hard work in the
direction of popularity entitled him to be.

For it was the desire and longing of his heart, soul and stomach to
be popular.  This was his only goal in life.  He knew (and with
surprising clarity for so young a boy) that as a scholar he would
never be especially distinguished, nor would he ever play games
supremely well.  He was not rich, nor had his father a title (than
small boys there exist in all the world no greater social snobs);
but he had, he fancied, "charm."  He was at heart extremely
conceited, but he was already worldly-wise enough to know that to
display your conceit before the world was the height of social
folly.  He was, in fact, very old for his years, being an only
child and possessing an adoring mother.

He was an intriguer born.  He owed allegiance to no one: others
thought they were his friends and he liked them to think so; but,
on his side, he gave his friendship to no one.  He did not, indeed,
know what the word meant.  He cultivated the suppression of the
emotions.  He showed neither anger nor fear, neither greed nor
cruelty.  He was naturally something of a puzzle to the young wild
animals in whose midst he lived.

This moving upward into the Study world had been an event of far
greater excitement to him than to young Cole, but he had shown no
excitement whatever.

He had feared, at the end of the summer term, that he would not
obtain his promotion out of the Middle Fourth into the Upper
Fourth.  The Upper Fourth meant the Upper School.  Every boy in
Upper School had the share of a Study.  He had, however, snatched
his remove by the skin of his teeth, if so melodramatic a metaphor
may be used in connexion with so controlled a personality.

When, at the end of the first week of the summer holidays, his
father, a dyspeptic General, had received a letter informing him
that his son had won his remove, young Gauntlet occupied many
summer hours in wondering with whom his Study lot would be cast.

Only six Leeson boys could possibly have their remove--Staire,
Cole, Marlowe, Perrin, Hackett and himself.  Three of them would
share a Study; the other three would be distributed among other
Studies.  The permutations and combinations were infinite.

Of these five boys two were superior--young Cole because of his
football, and "Red" Staire because of--oh, because of a thousand
things.

The rise to a Study was a rise out of the lower ranges of the
Jungle--it was a half-way stage between serfdom and liberty.  Now
was the time when you could look around and judge who, chances
being equal, would in two years' time be Leaders of the House and
possibly Leaders of the School.  Of course, not always.  There were
some stupid boys who would linger in the Lower School for years and
yet, because of their sporting talents, would be "Bloods" and
Leaders of Men--Halleran, for instance, who was still in the Upper
Fourth although he had been Fives Captain for the last two years.

But when, as was the case with Stocky Cole and Red Staire, there
were brains as well as games, you could foretell the future pretty
accurately.

Well and good--no problem at all, had Stocky Cole and Red Staire
been friends.  But, as everyone in Lower School knew, they were,
and had been for the past two years, the most determined enemies.
They loathed one another.  All the Lower School politics in
Leeson's during the last year had hovered and hesitated around
their feud.  You could not possibly belong to both camps.

It looked, then, as though Fate had definitely decided that
Gauntlet should henceforth belong to the Cole party.  This decision
about the Study had surely decided the matter.  But not at all.
Young Gauntlet was not to be rushed like that.  Like Mr. Asquith,
whose character he in no other way resembled, he would "wait and
see."  (These were days before that famous phrase had been
created.)

Were his feelings to be consulted (and they never were, if he could
avoid it), he liked Cole the better of the two.  You couldn't help
liking Stocky Cole.  Almost everyone did except Staire.  But was
Cole likely to rise to the top?  He was, from Gauntlet's point of
view, in character extremely rum.  He seemed to have no ambitions--
with the one grand exception, of course--football.  And even in
football he didn't "work for position," as Gauntlet would have
done.  He never made up to anybody.  Why, all last year he was
Considine's fag, and into Considine's Study all the football men at
one time or another penetrated.  But young Cole had never sweated
himself for any one of them more than for another.  It was
generally reported that Considine himself would have done a lot for
Stocky had Stocky allowed him, but Stocky seemed to prefer his own
inconsiderable friends, people of no account like Jumbo Payne.
There was a case in point.  Exactly.  Who was Jumbo Payne?  Nobody
and Nothing.  Moreover, would he ever be Anything or Anybody?
Never.  No good at games; no good at work.  Nothing to say for
himself, nothing to look at, no family, no money.  Gauntlet simply
couldn't understand making a friend of such a Nothing.  Young Cole
never seemed to look ahead--save only in football.  He HAD been a
trifle excited over the window question.  But a window?  What was a
window?  Gauntlet cared nothing for windows.

Now Red Staire was quite different.  He made friends of the mighty.
He was on good terms with almost everyone in authority.  His father
was a baronet of most ancient standing, and he had plenty of money.
He might very possibly next summer get his First Cricket.  He was
at any rate certain of his House Cricket.

Yes, but next summer?  That was a long way off and Staire was no
good at football.  This was Stocky Cole's term.  Anything might
happen before next summer.


2


The two boys made a striking contrast as they stood together
staring at Marlowe's bureau.

Although they were almost of the same age--fifteen and three-
quarters--Gauntlet seemed considerably the elder.  His face was old
for a boy, and this was in part because his skin was so smooth and
fair that it was almost a mask.

He had great distinction, his nose and mouth and chin finely
chiselled.  His only disadvantage was that his eyes were of too
pale a blue and his fair eyebrows too faint.  His body was slim and
neat, his hands and feet small and delicately made, and he carried
himself with a fine balance, something almost arrogant but not
quite.

Jeremy, on the other hand, was far too short for beauty and as
broad as he was long.  He was the THICKEST boy--thick everywhere,
in shoulders and thigh and leg.  His face was round and always in
colour a brown-red like a well-nurtured pippin.  His hair, which
was dark, was innocent of parting and would stick up in a tuft at
the back, do what he would to plaster it down.  His mouth was
large, and when he grinned (which was frequently), his whole face
rumpled with amusement.  He had a way of spreading his legs and
swinging his short arms as though he were going to leap into space.
His voice was rather thick and husky, deep for his age.  His hands,
which were large and strong, seemed for ever to be wanting to be
doing something.  But he was not restless.  He often stood or sat
for a long time without moving, his brow wrinkled as though he were
thinking deeply.  More often than not he was not thinking at all.
But when he did think he was lost, and it often took him a long
time to find himself again.

He suffered from spates of excitement, and when these were upon him
he had to work them off at once; any difficulties with authority
that had occurred during his three years at Crale had arisen from
this.

He was of a most equable temper and was both too lazy and too
amiable not to be on good terms with most of the world.  But when
he DID take a grudge, it was hard to shake him out of it.

This feud with Staire had not in its origin any definite grudge.
It had begun, perhaps, on Staire's side rather than on his own.  In
their first term at Crale there had been a game of football in
which Cole had played well and Staire badly.  Staire fancied that
Jeremy laughed at him--which it is possible that Jeremy did.
Staire then named Jeremy "The Farmer," and it was considered in
Staire's set that young Cole was too plebeian for anything.

But it all went deeper than this.  Jeremy hated Staire--and could
find no true reason for it.  There was nothing against Staire.  He
bullied occasionally, but so did Jeremy, in a thoughtless,
exuberant fashion.

He had a very good opinion of himself, but so also had Jeremy--
about certain things, at any rate.  Staire had his following of
toadies, but so had Jeremy--especially in the football term.
Staire was generous, on the whole kindly and decent-minded.  It was
perhaps his "Style" that angered Jeremy.  Staire "had a leg."  In
any gathering of boys anywhere you would notice him, while Jeremy,
unless on the football field, was never noticeable.

Then Staire knew the world.  He had been born in Vienna, where his
father, now retired and an M.F.H. in Leicestershire, had been in
the Diplomatic Service.  He had travelled with his parents through
most of Europe--and Jeremy, of course, had been nowhere.

But it went deeper than these things.  It was as though there had
been war between the two through countless ages, and both
recognized this.  And it was as though Fate intended them to be
foes.  Jeremy had often noticed the way in which they were pushed
at one another.  The feud, for the most part, made him miserable,
although there were times when his battle-instinct yielded him a
kind of fierce joy.  But he would wish to be at peace with all men--
something lazy in his character here.

Staire, on the other hand, loved it all.  He despised Stocky Cole
absolutely.  Everything about him seemed to Staire's elegance
contemptible--his thickness, awkwardness, childish "ragging" fits
and the absurd people he chose as his friends.  Only his football
was not contemptible.  But that was a kind of knack.  Staire had a
deep scorn of Rugby football because, himself, he played it so
badly.  Cricket now--there was a gentleman's game!

So they stood, the two of them.


3


"I think it's ripping," said Gauntlet.  "I wonder if Marlowe would
sell."

"I bet it cost a good bit," said Jeremy.

"Oh, I don't know.  I expect Marlowe prigged it out of his aunt's
bedroom or something.  I'll offer him a quid."

"These old things," said Jeremy, standing, his legs spread and his
hands in his pockets, and speaking with an air of profound wisdom,
are "worth lots more than a quid."

"I bet it's a fake," said Gauntlet.  "They fake everything
nowadays.  They stick bits of wood under manure-heaps and it comes
out all brown, and then they punch little holes into the wood to
make it worm-eaten.  I bet it's a fake."

The door opened and Marlowe came in.  He was the type of boy who is
often caricatured in stories of public-school life.  He was bony,
ill-clothed and wore large spectacles.  He had the look of an
elderly and patient sheep.  He resembled the sinister M. Verloc in
that he seemed "to have wallowed all night on an unmade bed."  He
was a very quiet boy and suffered perpetual insult without
complaint.  He was known to the world at large as "The Sheep," and
spent his day in an atmosphere of constantly recurring "Baas."

He did not, however, appear to be unhappy, unless possibly when the
centre of a Lower School football "scrum."  He hated all games, and
read without cessation.

"Hullo, Marlowe!" Gauntlet said genially.  "What a ripping desk!"

"Yes, isn't it?" said Marlowe, smiling faintly.

"Do you want it?" asked Gauntlet.

"Do I want it?" repeated Marlowe, bewildered.

"Yes, wouldn't you like to sell it?"

"Oh, no, thanks."

"I'll give you a quid for it."

"Oh, no, thanks."

"And you could have my table and everything on it."

"Oh, NO, thanks.  I wouldn't really.  Thanks most awfully."
Marlowe moved quickly and sat down in front of his precious prize
as though to protect it.

"I bet it's a fake."

"Oh, no, it isn't."

"I bet it is."

"It isn't, really."

"You can see it is--anybody can."

"Oh, no, they can't.  We've had it ever so long at home."

"I'll give you a quid for it."

"Oh, no, thanks."

"I will, really.  I'll get it from Ma Bender to-night."

"Oh, NO, thanks most awfully."

Gauntlet ceased.  He would bide his time.

The passage outside the Study rocked with noise.  Heavy bodies
bumped against the thin woodwork, boots tramped as though they
would burst the flooring, shouts and cries and yells--and then,
bellowing above the babel:  "Fag!  Fag!  Fag!  Fag wanted!"

Boys were thronging Coulter's; through the open window the smack-
smack of the fives balls could be heard against the stone, and the
white clouds sailed quietly on, piling now into high cumuli above
the trees, looking down on the fields, the lanes and the long
sunlit plain to the sea.

There were twenty minutes before dinner.  Jeremy thought he would
go and see how the Upper Fields were looking.

He tumbled out into the passage.  "Hullo, Stocky!  Stocky!  Stocky,
you ass! . . ."  But he pushed through, down the stairs, along the
passage until he came to the Games Board.

No, First Game wasn't yet posted.

Terrible disappointment were he not playing!  First Game at the
beginning of the term consisted of two matches, Possibles v.
Probables and Whites v. Colours.  Four scrum-halves would be needed
and he would be surely one of the four.  Forsyte, Conrad, himself,
and perhaps Haslewood.  But what he wanted was that he should be in
the Possibles v. Probables match.  That was watched more closely
than the other.  Haseton, the scrum-half of last year's team, had
left in the summer, but the danger was Forsyte who, although he
hadn't been given his colours, had played for the team on several
occasions last season and was unfortunately in Bunt's House, and
Bunt, being Games Master, would naturally try to push him in.

"However," thought Jeremy, "of course I can't expect to play for
the School this year."  Nevertheless he did, in his secret heart,
expect to.  He was a better scrum-half than Forsyte, any day.  And
who else was there?  Conrad was a funk and Haslewood was a three-
quarter by rights.

He passed on into Coulter's, and forgot all about football.  It was
always so with him.  He never thought about anything for five
minutes together.  Life was much too exciting.  Thoughts came and
went like flashing fish in a pool.  Anyone who fancies that either
Staire or football dominated him knows but little of a small boy's
mind.  Concentration!  Concentration!  Who ever knew a boy
concentrate on anything save the matter immediately in hand?  And a
good thing too!

He stayed for a moment and watched Halleran in the knock-up fives
game.  He was in the same Form now as Halleran!  That hero!  Comic
thought!  Halleran was now in his element, his great clumsy body
suddenly lithe and truly proportioned.  You would not have thought
that anyone so heavy could move so quickly, nor his sluggish,
slothful countenance shine forth so intelligently!

Jeremy moved on to the Upper Fields.  Behind was the grand,
towering pile of the School, the Chapel in its centre, the
sixteenth-century house, once part of a monastery, now the Head
Master's house, and then the old buildings of different periods;
but all achieving a marvellous and beautiful proportion, stretching
out like wings, high and splendid on its hill above the sea, so
that for many miles around it men would lift up their eyes and say
"Aye, that's Crale.  Best school in the country, I reckon."

But Jeremy was not thinking of the School.  He was not even
thinking of the Upper Fields.  He had certainly no eyes for the
tawny-crested trees.  He did not even hear the clamp-clamp of the
sea against the Raglan Rocks far below him.

He was hungry, frightfully, awfully hungry.  He didn't care whether
it was mutton and squashed flies.  He didn't care what it was.  He
could eat anything.  And after dinner he would go to Garrett's, the
Tuck Shop, and would have four doughnuts, three bars of pink
chocolate-cream and a stick of "Devona," this last warranted to
endure, if sucked judiciously, for an hour at least.  He turned to
cross the Gridiron and--of all fearful things--ran straight into
the legs and gown of "The Camel" himself!

The Reverend Charles Daime, for the last fifteen years head master
of Crale, was six-foot-four, and bony.  He bent a little from the
shoulders and would throw his head forward as though he were
searching for something.  To the Lower School he was something
remote, divine, God-like.  They never saw him save in Chapel and on
big public occasions.  The legends concerning him were as many as
the sands of the sea, as, for instance, that he ate monkeys for his
breakfast, slept on two beds end to end because one was not long
enough, and knew by heart every book that had ever been printed.

They knew, however, that he was the most successful Head Crale had
ever possessed, and they worshipped him.

Jeremy choked.  Folds of gown enveloped him.  A cool, strong hand
detached him.

"Well, Cole, going to knock me down?"

So the Camel knew who he was.

"Oh, no, sir!"  Jeremy, crimson, giggled like an idiot.

"How's the football?"

"All right, sir."

"Glad to hear it.  Glad to hear it."  And the Camel swept on.

Golly!  The Camel knew him!  The Camel had asked about his
football!  The Camel knew him!

He stared like one in a dream.  If he didn't play decently this
term, well, he'd bury himself!

Yes, he would.  He'd jolly well . . .

His hunger returned.



CHAPTER II

HOUSE


1


Upon that same afternoon, at exactly four of the clock, the Upper
Fourth were sitting awaiting the entrance of their form-master, Mr.
Parlow.

This was the first occasion of their meeting, because on the first
morning of the winter term the School divided into their various
Houses and did its best with a General Knowledge paper.

At the beginning of every winter term every form was born anew.
Boys who had been prominent leaders during the last year had now
moved into other worlds; dunces who had kicked their heels for so
many months on back benches were now surprisingly promoted into the
middle of the room.  The new and untried quality was now, nervously
erect, against the back wall and there they would remain until the
term's close.

Jeremy Cole had his place between Askwith of Bunt's and Cumberlege
of Frost's.  As for weeks and weeks these two were to be his
neighbours, their habits, characteristics and personalities were of
some importance to him.  Askwith he had never seen before and he
decided at once that he didn't like him.  He was a pale, freckled
boy, with an ingratiating manner.  Cumberlege was thick and stocky
like himself; he knew him.  Not a bad footballer.  Stupid.
Destined very possibly to play during the term the rôle of Form
fool.  Parlow, Jeremy had heard, always selected someone for that
office.

Four desks away was Staire, looking, Jeremy considered, as "sidey"
as possible.  Half-way down the room, lounging back against the
desk behind him, was big Halleran, the Fives Captain.  Some thirty
boys in all.

There was a church-time hush as the door opened and Parlow entered.
Parlow was a big, stout, clean-shaven man with a red face.  His
reputation on the whole was a good one.  There was nothing against
him save that he was said to make favourites, but that was
considered on the whole rather human of him.  He wasn't one of
those "sarcastic devils" like Fynes or Mortimer.  He was interested
in games, gave decent teas with plenty of food, and sometimes in
form read out of good books like Kipling and Haggard.  He had the
deuce of a temper, and at times could be heard shouting right
across Coulter's.  He swore finely and had a sense of humour.  All
this Jeremy had gathered from others.

He came in, settled his bulky form behind his desk and looked about
him.

"Well, yes," he said, staring at them.

"New boys stand up!" he commanded.

They stood up.

"A nice lot!  A nice, bright-looking lot!"

The senior boys in the form were turning round and looking at them.
Jeremy wished that he were taller.  His head came only just above
his desk.

"Do I know any of you?"

He stared at them one by one.

"I know you, Cole.  And you, Staire.  Have you come here to work or
play games?"

Neither answered.

"Halleran, you tell them.  What do YOU come here for?"

Everyone giggled.  Halleran mumbled in his throat.

"Well, Cole.  Which is it to be?"

"Please, sir, both," said Jeremy gulping.

"Hum, yes. . . .  As this is a football term I shall keep my eyes
on you.  Sorry cricket is finished for the time being, Staire?"

"Yes, sir."

"You're a bright-looking boy."  He fixed his large, round, child-
like eyes upon Cumberlege.  "What's your name?"

"Please, sir, Cumberlege, sir."

"Yes.  I hope you're smarter than you look!"

A relieved laugh from the form at this.  The fool for the term had
been appointed.

"Now, boys, listen to me.  You've got to work.  When I say work, I
mean exactly that--work.  Great fun pretending to work; but you
won't find it easy to catch me out.  You can try, if you like, but
I really advise you not to.  Besides, work's worth while.  You may
think it isn't.  Games much more important, the only thing, in
fact, you come to school for.  But it ISN'T the only thing.  It's
quite possible to do both, and as far as being useful in the world
afterwards goes work will get you on quite as well as games will.
But that isn't the point just now.  I'm here to see that you do
work and I mean to do it.  That's all.  Now get to it!"

And they got to it.

That hour was history.  Period James II and William and Mary.
Parlow had a way with him of making these people live.  He read to
them part of Macaulay's death of Charles II.  Then he told them
what he thought about James II, told them very succinctly, not
mincing his words.  He told them something of the period--read a
little Pepys and a little Evelyn.  The hour was over almost before
it had begun.

Outside, on the way up to the French class, Halleran stopped
Jeremy.

"Hullo, kid."

"Hullo," said Jeremy, dreadfully embarrassed.

"You've got a chance of being School Half this term."

"Have I?"

"Yes, you have; and I'll damned well give you a damned good hiding
if you miss it!"

"Thanks," said Jeremy, terribly pleased.

Going upstairs Jeremy found himself next to Staire.  It was
embarrassing for both of them, but Staire was, of course, complete
master of the situation.

"Hullo, Cole!"

"Hullo, Staire!"

"Had good hols?"

"Yes, thanks."

Staire spoke airily, superbly, as a country gentleman might unbend
graciously to one of his villagers, and Jeremy hated him for it.

"So did I.  We went to Dieppe."

"Decent paddling there, wasn't there?" said Jeremy, and then ran
swiftly upstairs.

Perhaps Staire had meant the advance as an offer of truce, but if
he had, why had he spoken as though he were the King of England?
Who was he, anyway?  Just because his father was a baronet.  Anyone
could be a baronet these days.  And an odd wave of hot affection
for his own father came over him, his own father of whom he was not
proud, with whom he was always at odds.  But he'd rather have him
than Staire's father.  He'd show Staire. . . .

But M. Forain awaited him.  M. Forain and the first chapter of
"Tartarin."


2


By general agreement the best hours of the winter term were those
that followed Last School and preceded First Prep.

Last School was over at six, First Prep. was at eight.  Two
glorious, fuggy, stuffing, guzzling, fighting hours.

They had been fine enough in the days before a Study, but now!
Now, when you need no longer have tea in the Dining Hall with all
the Lower School of the House; when you could make your own toast,
brew your own tea, dig into your own jam, slap on your own potted
meat; when, toast in one hand, tea in the other, you could,
uninterrupted by the vulgar mob, devour "Monte Cristo"; when you
could listen to the rabble that kicked and pushed against the
skirting of the wall and be safe and preserved against their
vulgarity; when you could hear the gas so cosily hissing and the
small (very small) fire so intimately spitting; when, if guests
intruded upon you, you could either kick them out (good for warming
the blood), or invite them in with all the courtesy of the perfect
host; when, hearing that long wailing cry of "Fag!" go echoing down
the passage, you need no longer listen save for the luxurious
memory of those old dead and vanished days of serfdom; when, if the
storms were blowing up from the sea, you could hear the rain as it
lashed the window panes and could fancy with what white fury the
waves were now hurling themselves over the rocks far below; when
you could gorge and gorge and gorge adding strawberry jam to the
next best butter and sardines to the strawberry jam and Dundee cake
to the sardines and chicken and ham potted meat to the Dundee cake;
when you could hear the old school clock striking the quarters and
someone singing in strident discordance and someone else mournfully
practising the fiddle; and then again the grasping fingers of the
wind upon the pane--ah, these were hours, blessed, noble, care-free
hours!

Jeremy had the capacity beyond most mortal humans of savouring the
full enjoyment of the immediate moment.  When he was happy he was
tremendously happy.  He remembered not past unhappinesses, nor the
threats of the future overhanging hours.  For him there were no
future hours.  He sunk his whole weight deep, deep down into the
present and there wallowed.

It was not "Monte Cristo" that he was at the moment reading, but a
story called "Kronstadt," by that glorious author of "The Iron
Pirate," Mr. Max Pemberton.  It was a story about that fascinating
country Russia with its snows and knouts, its spies and Siberia.
It concerned a lovely English governess who had an unfortunate
taste for abstracting private documents of the highest military
importance.  Jeremy thought her splendid but tiresome.  He came to
the end of the chapter.  He pulled himself up out of Russia and
surveyed the little room with an intense, proprietary pleasure.

Gauntlet was absent.  Marlowe was bending over his beautiful bureau
absorbed in a book.

The long, spiny body, the hunched shoulders, protruding ears,
intrigued Jeremy.  He threw a French grammar at them.  Marlowe's
mild, bespectacled sheep-face turned towards him.

"I say--you're always reading.  What'll you do when there aren't
any books left?"

Marlowe giggled, his silly irritating giggle.

"There'll always be books," he said.

"Yes, but don't you ever want to do anything else?"

"Else than what?"

"Read."

Marlowe blinked behind his glasses; "I want to write."

"Write what?"

"Write stories. . . .  I'm in the middle of one now. . . ."  Then
suddenly perceiving the dangerous nature of his confidence:  "Oh, I
say, Cole, you won't tell anyone, will you?"

"No, I won't tell anyone.  Let's see it."

Marlowe, greatly agitated, dug deep into the bureau and produced a
bundle of dirty-looking papers.  Jeremy took them gingerly.  On the
outside page in very uneven, printed letters stood:


                      ARNADO THE FEARLESS

                           A ROMANCE
                         OF THE DAYS OF
                           GUY FAWKES


There were many pages.

"Golly!" said Jeremy.  "Did you write all this?"

"Yes," said Marlowe.

"Can I read it?"

"Yes, if you like."  Then he urged again, "You won't tell anyone,
will you?  They'd rag me frightfully if they knew."

"No.  Didn't I say I wouldn't?  Fancy your writing all that!  Where
do you get it from?"

"I don't know," said Marlowe.  "It just comes."

Marlowe took back his precious papers and hid them again in the
desk.

Jeremy regarded him with a new interest.

"Don't you ever want to play games?"

"I hate games."

"You'll get ill one day and die," said Jeremy seriously, "if you
don't play games."

"I don't care," said Marlowe defiantly; "I'd rather die than play
football."

"Why are you such an ass?" inquired Jeremy.  "Chaps just can't help
kicking you.  I don't mind you, but I want to kick you often.  You
look such a fool."

"Yes, I know I do," said Marlowe.  "But I won't be one always.
I'll be remembered when everyone here will be forgotten."

"Perhaps you will," said Jeremy reflectively, "if you can write all
that stuff.  But it's not much use being remembered after you're
dead, if you're kicked all the time you're alive."

"Yes, it is!" said Marlowe ardently.  "Every great writer's been
bullied and neglected first.  You're having your time now.  I'll
have mine later on."

"Good heavens!" said Jeremy.  "Do you think you're a great writer?"

"I'm not now," answered Marlowe modestly; "but I will be later."

Here was strange food for thought.  The despised and rejected
Marlowe considered himself a great swell.

He was aware with a suddenness that really startled him that when
you had settled for yourself that someone was an ass, the matter
was not, in truth, finally decided.  The ass might have quite
another opinion; and, in reverse, when you thought yourself
splendid, someone else might think YOU an ass!

All this was interesting.  In truth Jeremy was greatly intrigued by
the discovery that Marlowe was a writer.  There was a side of
himself of which he never consciously thought, but a side of which
he was occasionally most sharply aware--something in him of which
he was exceedingly shy, and concerning which he would speak to no
one in the world, not to Uncle Samuel, not even to himself.  This
was the part of him that loved the woods round Polchester, the
Cathedral where once he had seen the Black Bishop, the Sea Captain
in whose company he had once almost absconded, Rafiel by the sea,
the farm where, as small children, they had stayed in the summer;
and, when it came to small things, horse-chestnuts, skies of red
and orange, trees blown by the wind, Orange Street shining after
rain, fires of autumn leaves, spring flowers, his elder sister
dressed for a party, his mother's rings, books in shining bindings,
running without clothes on the sands beyond Rafiel and so on and so
on . . . all the things that Uncle Samuel alone in the family
understood.

As he had grown and the school life had slowly, relentlessly
moulded him, Jeremy had become more and more ashamed of these inner
stirrings.  No one at school but would rag him unmercifully were
they known.  His most intimate friend, Jumbo Payne, had never
experienced these excitements.  Jeremy felt now that they were
something "soppy," "girlish," weak and feeble.  He would have
killed them and he could, but, in spite of himself, at the oddest
moments, when he least expected them, up they would spring,
stirring him altogether in spite of himself.

And now Sheep Marlowe, of all people, had moved him again!  To
write a real book, to write pages and pages, to give it a name, to
invent it all out of your head. . . .  He sat there balancing on
his chair, staring at that bent, spiny back, those protruding ears.
To be remembered after the rest were forgotten!  It was a rum
world.  Sheep to be remembered!  Sheep!  A rum world!  With a sigh
back he turned to "Kronstadt."


3


A head was poked in through the door, McCormick.

"I say, Cole, Leeson wants to see you."

"Wants to see ME?"

"Yes!  Now!  I've just been with him.  He wants you NOW."

"Oh, lord!  What's he want to see me about?"

"I don't know.  Your bizz, not mine."

McCormick vanished.

Leeson was not popular with his House.  He was nicknamed "Paddy"
because he went round the dormitories after lights were out to see
whether things were as they should be, and wore soft slippers for
the occasion.

Jeremy had seen but little of him during these three years.  He had
been "whacked" by him twice, given tea by Mrs. Leeson three times
and exhorted by Leeson once a week during a whole term before
Confirmation.  It was the last of these that had caused Jeremy's
very soul to squirm.  He didn't mind so much that he should be
rebuked for forgetting his Catechism, but when it came to asking
him intimate questions about "the Purity of his Body"--a phrase
that meant nothing to him hidden as it was beneath Leeson's chaste
reticences but, when interpreted afterwards by friends and
companions, meant all kinds of things--from that moment Jeremy had
detested Leeson.

He went now most reluctantly.  What did Paddy want to badger him
for on the very first day of term?  What had he done wrong already?
He threw his mind over the events of last night and to-day and
could discover no crime.  There had been too many things to do and
think about.  There had been no time for mischief.  And why snatch
from him his Study hour--at the very moment too when the governess
had been discovered thieving by her lover?  A rotten shame, and one
more count against Leeson.

He slouched through the noisy school building into the chaste,
deadened privacy of Leeson's quarters.  He knocked on Leeson's
door, then entered.

Leeson was alone, his long, black, clerical form bent over his
table, letter-writing.  Leeson was one of those tall, blue-black
clergymen, who look like an advertisement for Waterman Co.'s
fountain pens.  His Study had large photographs of Rome and Athens,
busts of Sophocles and Julius Cæsar, and many rows of theological
volumes.

Jeremy waited.

Leeson looked up.  "Ah, Cole, I wanted to speak to you."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

"Had good holidays?"

"Yes, sir, thank you."

"People all well?"

"Yes, sir, thank you."

"Glad to be back?"

"Yes, sir, thank you."

There was a pause.

"Well, let me see--"  Leeson stood now in front of the fire-place,
his long, thin, black legs spread wide.

"You're in a Study this term?"

"Yes, sir."

"With--let me see--with whom?"

"Gauntlet Major and Marlowe, sir."

"Ah, yes.  Gauntlet Major and Marlowe.  Yes.  Quite.  You got your
House Fifteen last winter, I think?"

"Second House, sir."

"Ah, yes.  You've got a good chance for First House this year?"

"Yes, sir, I think so, sir."

"I'm informed that they may even play you for the School."

Jeremy's heart beat.  He said nothing.

"How old are you?"

"Fifteen and three-quarters."

"Ah, yes.  Let me see.  You're small for your age."

"Yes, sir."

Leeson's voice suddenly changed.  There was a most surprising
twinkle in his eye.  Jeremy had never seen it there before.

"How do you like this school, Cole?"

"Like it, sir?"

"Yes, are you happy here?"

"Very happy, thank you, sir."

"Proud of the School?"

Jeremy was uncomfortable and rubbed his boots together.  "I suppose
so, sir, I hadn't thought of it exactly."

"Quite, quite."  Leeson's voice was friendly, familiar, intimate.
"Well, it's time you did.  You're beginning to have influence.  And
especially in the House.  Do you like the House?"

"Oh, it's all right, sir."

"I see--no especial feelings about it.  Naturally.  Well, it's time
you did have some special feelings about it.  And how do you feel
about me?"

This was awful.  Jeremy hung his head and muttered.

"Exactly.  You think me a tiresome ass.  Quite.  It's natural that
you SHOULD think so and even right that you should, during your
first years here.  Things work more easily that way."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy, being apparently expected to say
something.

"But I'm NOT a tiresome ass: at least, it isn't any longer a good
thing that you should think me so.  And I'll tell you why.  Because
from now on, you and I have got to work to some extent together and
there's no hope of our doing that if we don't see one another
sympathetically."

"No, sir," said Jeremy.

"You see, it's like this.  During your first year or two at a
school of this sort you're passive--just stuff for the school to
work on.  The school catches you up like a sausage-machine and
turns you from the conceited little pup that you were when you left
your private into something else--something that it can use both
for itself and for something wider and deeper than itself."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy, looking at Julius Cæsar in a kind of
trance.

"But then the day comes," Leeson went on, "when it's time for YOU
to do something!  You've got to come in and add something.  From
that moment the future of the school will depend to a certain
extent on what you are, and everything you do will affect its
future.

"This school, which has been going on, in one sort of way or
another, ever since the Eleventh Century, on this very spot, hasn't
made itself; it's been made by the boys who have cared for it and
have done something for it.  Its influence is increasing, and so
your influence through it is increasing.  People are always wanting
to be immortal.  Well, here's as good a chance for immortality as I
know.  Do something decent for this school and you do something
decent for yourself, for England and for everyone who comes after
you here.  That's worth while, it seems to me."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

"Yes, and there's more than that in it," Leeson went on.  "There's
your immediate influence here in this House.  Now this House mayn't
seem much to you.  It isn't more than fifty years old.  It's ugly
to look at.  It isn't even very architecturally sound.  It's seemed
to you, so far, just a place to rag in, eat and sleep in.  But if
you can do something for the School, far more can you do something
for the House.  Here your influence is immediate.  Everyone knows
you.  Everyone watches you.  The smaller boys admire you because
you're a good footballer.  From now on you're going to matter a lot
to this House, one way or the other, and it's just as well that you
should know it."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

"That's why you've got to understand me a little.  There are many
boys I wouldn't talk to like this.  It would make them priggish and
self-conscious.  They'd think themselves potential Napoleons, or,
worse still, little angels.  But I've no fear of your taking
yourself too seriously; in fact, the danger is just the other way.
I fancy, for instance, this evening that you've heard hardly a word
that I've been saying.  All the same it will stick in your head
more than you imagine."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

"And if I've been studying you I want you to pay me the compliment
of studying me in return a little.  I know what you think of me.
Old 'Paddy' Leeson who goes round the dormitories after dark in
soft slippers.  Well, that may or may not be true.  Anyway, that
isn't the whole truth about me.  I love this House better than I've
ever loved anything in my life except my wife.  I've made plenty of
mistakes and will make plenty more, but I shall make less if you
help me.  I'm not proposing any change in our relations except
this: that you should think of me as a human being, not a pious
humbug; and that, secondly, you should realize that if in three
years' time you leave this school without having done anything
decent either for it or the House, you'll have a crime on your
conscience.  Yes.  Well . . .  Come and see me when you want to."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

Leeson held out his hand.  Jeremy shook it and shuffled out of the
room.


4


Back in his part of the house he shook his head as a dog does when
he comes out of the water.  He walked out into Coulter's.  The
stars were coming out in their myriads.  It was an evening of
marvellous softness.  All the sounds came gently, the very rhythmic
murmur of the sea, the muffled cries of boys behind the walls, the
distant banging of doors, the wheels of a cart crunching down the
country road.

But Jeremy heard none of them.  He stood staring out into the dusky
playing fields, his hands plunged in his pockets.  Had old Paddy
been pulling his leg?  Was this some plot to get him to do
something pious, look after the new kids and report to Paddy when
there was a dormitory feast?  Or was it straight?  What was it
Paddy had said?  Jeremy couldn't remember a word except something
about influence and helping the House. . . .  Oh, yes, and looking
on Paddy as a human being!  That was rum.

He'd have to ask Jumbo about it.  Whether Paddy was on the straight
or no. . . .

But all this about the School.  Of course he liked the School.
Didn't he, if there was a match on, shout for the School until he
was blue in the face?  Wouldn't he rather be here than any old Eton
or Harrow or Rugby?  Of course he would.  All the same . . .  He
felt a burden upon him.  He wasn't as free as he had been.  He was
under some sort of responsibility, but WHAT responsibility?  He
didn't know.

But Leeson wasn't quite the ass he'd thought him.  Maybe it was
only a tale that he came round the dormitories in soft slippers.
Rotten shame that chaps should say so if it wasn't true!

Golly, what a lot of stars!

He went slowly in.



CHAPTER III

THE WAR OF THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS (I)

THE PICTURE


1


Jeremy played in the Possibles v. Probables game and did not in any
particular way distinguish himself.

Nobody was distinguished.  It was a mild and spiritless affair.

This was partly the result of the weather, which also was mild and
spiritless, a thin, grey mist hanging over sea and land with no
wind to blow it away.

It was also spiritless because of the new School Rugby Captain,
Beltane.  Beltane was a giant, six-foot-two in his socks and
fourteen stone.  He was to Jeremy and Jeremy's generation a grown
man; he was, in their opinion, considerably further advanced in
man's estate than many of the old boys who came down on festival
occasions.

Huge in bulk, he had a jolly, humorous and exceedingly intelligent
face.  He WAS intelligent, extremely so, and was expected to win
magnificent University scholarships during this, his last year at
Crale.  It was whispered that already he wrote for the London
papers and was earning a fine income by so doing.

He was also an excellent Rugby forward, of a rather old-fashioned
and shoving type, but he was too good-natured to make a good
captain.

Priestley, last year's captain, a swift and lean three-quarter like
a greyhound, had been a magnificent leader, cursing, encouraging,
relentless, ubiquitous.  Now, in the first game of the new season,
everyone felt the difference.  Beltane shoved well enough in the
scrum and cursed volubly those near to him, but for some mysterious
reason no one was afraid of him--and everyone was languid.

Jeremy was not happy with his partner half-back, who was never
there to take a pass and, if he did have the ball on any occasion,
always stuck to it too long.  So, although Jeremy showed apparently
any amount of energy, shouting in his funny, husky voice, "Coming
in on the right, Possibles," and "Ball away!" and "Break!  Break!"
(like the pessimist in Lord Tennyson's poem); and although he fell
on the ball in the most determined fashion, was kicked in every
tender spot and had again and again to extricate himself from piles
of bodies, he knew very well that he was not playing with his whole
heart and soul.

He was in that state, only too well known to him, of divided
interests, so that while his whole mind SEEMED to be on the game,
half of it was away somewhere on a holiday of its own, considering
the other game of Whites and Colours playing on a neighbouring
field, considering the thin vapours of mist behind which the trees
stood with twisted arms like paralysed old men, considering tea and
food and Parlow and Paddy--things and people that should have been
far, far from his mind.

And at half-time he was irritated by Bunt, who had been one of the
linesmen and now came hustling across the field to tell everyone
what they ought to do.  What he told Jeremy was that the main
business of the scrum-half was to get the ball away to the stand-
off-half and "see that he got his passes."

That's all very well, thought Jeremy, kicking his heels into the
muddy ground, but what are you to do if the stand-off-half can't
TAKE a pass and if he's never in the position he ought to be in?
And it was then that, turning round to gaze into distance at the
other game, veiled in mist and played by shadows, the thought came
to him (whence, how, why, he was never afterwards able to
determine), "Steevens and I would play jolly well together."  Now
this was odder in that he had hardly ever seen Steevens (who was
playing stand-off-half that afternoon in Colours v. Whites), had
never played in a game with him, nor even spoken to him, Steevens
being in Bunt's House.  He was, moreover, a comparatively new boy,
having come rather late to Crale.

Jeremy knew nothing whatever about him save that there had been a
rumour towards the end of the preceding season that he played
"rather a decent game."

And yet suddenly this thought came:  "I'd play well with Steevens."

In later years, when the Cole-Steevens combination was England's
hope at half-back for five successive years, Jeremy sometimes
looked back to that afternoon and saw himself--small, filthy,
plastered with mud, standing on that misty field, and behold, out
of heaven as it were, Steevens descended upon him!  Strange!

A sort of miracle!


2


After the game in the long changing-room Beltane spoke to Jeremy.

The changing-room was a dim, passage-like place, with hot and cold
showers and rows and rows of lockers and bare benches.  It was dim
because of clouds of steam, and in and out of the steam naked
shoulders and thighs and buttocks, staring red faces matted with
hair, white legs and arms like separate, animated automata
protruded, flashed and vanished again.

"Here, Stocky Cole, rub me down!" Beltane shouted.  He was standing
under the shower, his thick, black hair tangled over his forehead,
his great body strangely smooth and white in the shadow, the water
hissing and splashing over him with a jerking fury as though it
enjoyed its job.  Jeremy, who had been dancing about waiting for
his chance to dash in under a shower, took a towel and, as
tradition had for a thousand years dictated, rubbed down his
master's back and thighs.  By rights he was now free of this
service, but not for the worlds of Paradise would he have claimed
his rights.

"You're a rum-looking kid," said Beltane, surveying him.  "You're
as broad as you're long."  He condescended to feel his muscles.
"Not bad.  Not much fat."  He punched Jeremy's belly and nearly
drove the wind out of him.  "Not bad," he repeated.  Then,
stretching his great arms and yawning, he said:  "You and Abbott
weren't much use this afternoon.  What was the matter with you?"

"I don't think we suit each other very well."

"No, I don't think you do."

Jeremy pulled himself together, looked into Beltane's good-natured
face; then said, marvelling at his own cheek:

"I believe I'd fit in very decently with Steevens."

"Steevens!" Beltane said, pulling his shirt over his head.  "Why
Steevens?"

"I don't know," said Jeremy, his voice suddenly deserting him and
sounding like a frog's croak.  "I'd like to try, though."

But Beltane said no more.  His friend Mulligan was shouting to him
and he shouting back again.

Jeremy was forgotten.


3


But Jeremy didn't forget.  While he was dressing he thought of it;
then as he strolled up to Leeson's to find Jumbo Payne; then as the
two of them turned lazily, luxuriously (to-day was a blessed half-
holiday) towards Garrett's, the Tuck-Shop:

"I say, Jumbo, I think I'd play awfully decently with Steevens."

A word about Jumbo Payne.  He was a boy of no distinction whatever,
still in Lower School although older than Jeremy, podgy in build,
hair so fair that it was almost white, an amiable, sleepy
countenance, in character silent and apparently somnolent.

He was, however, Jeremy's best friend.  They had been friends now
for three years.  He had stayed with Jeremy's people at Polchester
and Jeremy had stayed with Jumbo's aunt in Colchester (Jumbo was an
orphan).

Theirs was not in any way a sentimental or romantic friendship.
They simply liked being together, trusted one another completely;
Jeremy talked and Jumbo listened.  It might to a casual observer
have seemed a one-sided friendship, because Jeremy was certainly
the star and Jumbo the silent worshipper.  Everything that Jeremy
did seemed right to Jumbo, but he never flattered him or indulged
his vanity.  Jumbo, indeed, said very little at any time and dealt
largely in monosyllables; but when he did give an opinion it was a
startlingly honest one.  Honesty was his supreme characteristic.
He had no imagination and when Jeremy swung into dreams he was
simply bewildered and uncomprehending, but he was a gentleman
according to the code taught him by his father, a retired captain,
a rolling stone, reckless and blundering but adored by his small
son.  Both the father and mother had died during an influenza
epidemic when Jumbo, their only child, was six.

So much for Jumbo Payne, whom nobody in the school ever noticed
save Jeremy.  There was no reason why you should notice him.  His
fat soft body, his mild round face seemed to melt into air as you
watched it.  He was distinguished in nothing, either in work or
games.  He never spoke unless he was spoken too.  He had no
hobbies, did not collect stamps or white mice, had apparently no
enthusiasms and no regrets.  He was Stocky Cole's friend.
Otherwise he had no visible existence.

"Why Steevens?" he asked.

"I don't know," said Jeremy.  "I suddenly thought of him at half-
time."

"You weren't much good to-day," said Jumbo, who had watched the
game.

"I know," said Jeremy.  "But what can you do with an ass like
Abbott?  He can't hold the ball if you give it to him."

"Some of Staire's pals were standing near me," Jumbo went on
dreamily.  "They weren't half pleased at your playing so rottenly."

"I didn't play rottenly."

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did.  Everyone said you did."

Jeremy sighed.  "Yes, I know.  Beltane said so.  I told him I ought
to play with Steevens."

Jumbo showed mild surprise.  "That was some cheek.  What did he
say?"

"Oh, nothing.  I was rubbing him down.  He didn't know I'd got a
Study and I wasn't going to tell him.  I like Beltane, only I don't
think he'll make much of a captain.  He's too soft.  Chaps don't
mind what he says.  He says I haven't got any fat, and I haven't
either.  Lucky he didn't see you stripped."

"I'm not fat," Jumbo said indignantly.  This was the one reproach
that he could never endure.

"Of course you are.  Fat as an old hen!  I say, what a scrum!
Golly!  Hullo, Swipes! . . .  No, I didn't.  Anyway, that was last
term, and I bet one ginger-beer . . ."

Garrett's was swimming with heat and company.

What Jeremy liked about Garrett's, although he couldn't have told
you so, was the colour.  It gleamed and glittered and glowed.
Partly this was so because when it was filled with boys a sort of
warm, misty steam was generated, so that you saw everyone in a
haze.  Through this haze the rows of tinned things, fruits and
potted meats and jams, with all their bright-coloured labels of
rosy apples and crimson strawberries and Californian harvests and
marvellous amber-shining pears, shone like jewels.  Mother Garrett
herself had cheeks as rosy as any apple and a bosom like a downy
pillow.  She was occupied, with two hand-maidens to help her, as
surely no human being has ever been occupied before.  She must not
only answer the shouts and cries and appeals, but rebuke the
forward, correct the dishonest, chasten the proud, collect the
money and put on record all the involving debts.  Tick was allowed,
but only to a certain amount, and no recognized field of official
diplomacy could place on record such attempts at passing the
forbidden limit!

She made strange noises of excitement, commiseration, indignation
and humour.  The most fantastic and indecent tales were told of
her, creating her the Dame Quickly of her place and period.  Heaven
knows whether any of them were true.  She had never been seen off
duty.  She lived in the village at the bottom of the hill--Pleasant
Cove.  She was reputed immensely rich.  It was said that Bunt, who
was known to have a Rabelaisian turn, when bored with Mrs. Bunt and
all the little Bunts, would hie him to her cottage and there at her
abounding fireside spin bawdy tales with her.

The uproar was titanic.  "Mrs. Garrett, two Devonas. . . .  Four
bars chocolate-cream. . . .  No, I swear I didn't. . . .  It's a
new term, isn't it?  Well, then . . .  Look out, Sweaty, who are
you barging?  Five apples, two pine-apple squares.  That's sixpence
and two doughnuts tenpence and . . ."

The heat rose in a mist and a great, pulsing conviction of well-
being and healthy satisfaction rose with it.  About the counter
itself boys were packed four deep, bodies pressed into bodies,
excited crimson faces leaning forward, small boys trying to edge
their way through big ones, and all the while Mrs. Garrett's rich
deep voice:  "Now, Mr. Chanter, that's only ninepence you give me!
Yes, it is now!  One at a time now!  Can't 'ear oneself breathe!"

It was now, at this precise moment, that occurred the first
incident--minute enough, as are many first incidents in great
affairs--in that great and even now, after thirty years, although-
traditional-yet-remembered battle with which Jeremy and this story
have so much to do.

Jeremy was not so happy as he should be; Jumbo's remarks about the
football were rankling.  He had known that he had not distinguished
himself that afternoon, but he had not realized, until Jumbo put it
so brutally, that his game had been ROTTEN.  He could trust Jumbo
for the truth, but ere now he had noticed that Jumbo also, in a
sort of excess of friendship, was given at times to an exaggeration
of frankness.  He thought that that had been the case now.  After
all, he couldn't have played so very badly.  It wasn't his fault if
Abbott couldn't hold a pass. . . .  Nevertheless, he was sensitive.
As he glanced about him he fancied that fellows were looking at him
and whispering (they were, of course, doing nothing of the kind),
"Stocky Cole's no good this year.  He played a rotten game this
afternoon. . . ."

The ginger-beer was as sawdust in his mouth, the doughnuts heavy
and jamless.  He was in the general press, and someone was
breathing stertorously down his ear, and someone else was digging a
sharp elbow into his back.  He was stiff and sore after the game.
Someone that afternoon had kicked him on the back of his head.

Then he heard, quite plainly, so that it was impossible to mistake
it, the opprobrious epithet, "Farmer!  Farmer!" and then, also
unmistakable:  "Who has to get up early to milk the cows?"

He tried to turn round sharply to confront the insulter, but he
could not shake himself free.  When at last, all the angrier
because of the delay, he worked his body about and glared on every
side, no one seemed to be looking his way.

But there, not far from him, were Crumb and Baldock, two of
Staire's most devoted adjutants.  He stared at them, waiting for
them to take up his challenge, but they were busied with ginger-
beer.  He fancied that they were laughing at him, but he could
prove nothing.

Longing to be enraged with something or somebody, he grunted to
Payne:

"I'm sick of this; I'm going"; and slipped away.


4


This anger of his had a strange result.  He went to the Study and
found no one there.  It was as cold and desolate as the grave.  He
looked at his table, and a dreary, naked and ink-soiled affair it
was.  He felt an urgent need to assert himself, to do something
aggressive and defiant.  He'd give them "Farmer," and show them how
much he cared for THEIR opinion!  The back of his head ached and he
had eaten too many doughnuts too quickly.  So he went to his play-
box and fetched out Uncle Samuel's picture.

He felt an instant's dismay when he looked at it.  It certainly was
RUM.  He turned it up and turned it down.  He brushed the glass
with his hand and dusted the frame with his very dirty handkerchief.
It was a NICE frame.  That was, on the whole, the best thing that
you could say about it.  Why did Uncle Samuel paint like that?  He
couldn't really think that that was the way things looked.  After
all, sheep had tails and legs; and why was the field so red and the
trees so purple, and what was that violet splodge right in the
picture's middle?

Looking at it, he nearly returned it to the play-box.  Then his
obstinacy supported him.  There was no other fellow in the whole
school had a picture like that.

So he came with it and set it up on the table.

Somehow, there in the room, it didn't look so bad.  It made a nice
spot of bright colour.  Then he saw, propped up in a corner, two
letters.  One was from his mother and the other, by a strange
coincidence, was from Uncle Samuel himself.  Uncle Samuel wrote to
him often.  Very odd letters, if you could call them letters; they
were more like diaries, or yet more as though Uncle Samuel was
talking there in the room.  They were written on rough bits of
paper and began in the middle instead of like most letters at the
beginning.  As did this one:


Because I have a cold is no reason why your sister Helen should
interrupt my work by offering me quinine.  Your sister Helen is
always doing things for other people that she may add to her own
glory.  Mind you, I don't say that that isn't the reason that most
people do things for other people; but Helen is, at present, young
and hasn't yet learnt to hide her motives.  I have one of those
dripping colds and I hate being asked as to how it is getting on--
which your mother, kind soul, is for ever doing.

Your mother, I may tell you, is missing you, and I suggest that
next Sunday you write a little more than your usual blotty scribble
with no news in it.  You cling too nakedly to bald facts.  Facts
are nothing.  Any fact, if stared bravely in the face, will turn
out not to be a fact at all.  Believe me.  Your uncle knows.
Anyway, try and write to your mother as though you were a human
being and not a jam-eating, football-playing automaton.

How are you enjoying yourself?  Are you proud of your Study?  Shall
I send you a picture for it?  I have three.  You can choose.  One
is of your sister Mary reading a book.  No one thinks it a good
likeness, but I don't mind that because Mary is not actually in the
picture; but she would be reading a book if she were.  So that's
all right.  The second one is of "Cattle Drinking."  One of my
best.  A nice arrangement in greens and blues.  The cattle are blue
and what they are drinking is green--not very healthy for them, but
then cattle, I understand, can drink anything.  The third is simply
called "Sunrise."  As you've always been too lazy to get up when
the sun is rising, your criticisms will be meaningless to me.  Your
father thinks it's a football match, but as your father has never
seen a football match, that's an easy mistake for him to make.
Just write and say which you'd like.

Now I must tell you that your uncle is going to show his pictures
all by himself in London.  The London swells have invited him to do
so and are taking all the risks, and people will pay sixpence to
come in.  Just think!  You've been able to see all these pictures
for nothing for ever so long and now everyone is going to pay
sixpence!  There's glory for you!  Your father can't understand it.
He'd pay sixpence not to see them.  But there it is.  It's an odd
world and there are a great many different coloured fish in the
sea.

I must also tell you that there's been a strange dog haunting our
house and he's very like that late lamented hound Hamlet.  He's
just as ugly, but seems to have less conceit.  He has appeared now
three times, looking in at us through the gate.  Your sister Mary
has tried to lure him in with a bone, but it's you that he's
looking for, I imagine.  If I get a chance to speak to him, I'll
tell him where you are, and perhaps he'll come along and see you.

Canon Ronder condescended to come and have a meal with us the other
day.  You should have seen the fuss!  He's very fat and enjoys his
food.  He even drank your father's dreadful wine with gusto.  He
invited himself in to see my pictures and said he liked them, but I
don't think he's a sincere man.  The women all adore him, but you
can take it from me that there's something wrong with a man whom
women adore.  He's a great swell with us now--ever since Brandon
died.  You can see that I don't like him.  He's too neatly dressed
for me.

And what else is there?  Nothing, I think.  My cold is dripping all
over the paper.  Now see that you write your mother a nice letter.
And you can write me a short one, too.  I say a short one because
I've no time to read a long one.  If your sister Helen offers me
quinine again I shall strike her.  Your sister Mary is writing a
story and is turning blue all over because she licks her pencil so
often.

                Your loving Uncle

                            SAMUEL.


Jeremy had a spasm of homesickness when he read this letter.  Lots
of fellows he knew would think that an exceedingly silly letter,
but for himself it had the effect of drawing him straight as though
with a magnet into the scene that in spite of its many drawbacks he
loved so well, the steep incline of Orange Street, the statue with
its coat-tails, the green and leafy lanes leading right and left
into the country, the cathedral towers with the sun on them, the
house with the gate, and the conservatory with the coloured glass,
the hall, and then Uncle Samuel's bare, sunlit room and himself,
stubby and thick in his blue painting smock. . . .

Four or five boys burst in shouting and laughing, Gauntlet,
Staire's friends Crumb and Baldock and--good heavens!--Staire
himself!

Jeremy realized at once that he was in the presence of the enemy,
and he stiffened and bristled all over like a dog.

"Hullo, Cole!"  Then they busied themselves with something that
Gauntlet had to show them.  Jeremy sat at his table, pretending to
read, but in reality alert, vibrating with wariness.

Gauntlet talked with the voice that he always used for those whom
he wished to please--a little self-deprecatory, a little
flattering, a little eagerly pleasant.

"Oh, it isn't much," he was saying.  "I've got better than that at
home, but of course, Staire, you'd know more about that kind of
thing.  My governor collected drawings.  He did really.  He used to
have ever so many, then he got tired of them and sold them."

Jeremy wasn't looking, but he knew that Staire was as conscious of
himself as he was of Staire.

He could tell this by the pitch of Staire's voice.  And although he
wasn't looking, yet he could tell just how Staire was standing
there, aloof, condescending, patronizing them all.  How he loathed
him!

Staire talked about his father rather as though no one had ever had
a father before.  He gave Gauntlet's possessions his benevolent
blessing.

Then they turned round and considered Marlowe's marvellous desk.
Staire didn't think much of it.  He'd seen many better.  Still, it
wasn't bad.  Pretty swanky a fellow like The Sheep bringing a thing
like that.  Who did he think he was?  Followed anecdotes about The
Sheep, humorous and very unkind.

Then they turned to Jeremy.  "Hullo, Cole--working?"

"Yes," said Jeremy.

"Resting after your football labours?" said Staire, and Crumb and
Baldock tittered.  Jeremy read on.

"Play a decent game this afternoon?" Staire inquired politely.

"Oh, shut it!" Jeremy growled.  "Clear out, can't you?"

"Clear out!" said Staire.  "Sorry we're in the way, but Gauntlet
happened to have asked us in.  His study as well as yours, I
believe."

Jeremy said nothing.

"How did our young half play this afternoon?" Staire went on.

Crumb and Baldock, who wanted to hang on to the outskirts of the
fray rather than figure as its centre, giggled again but said
nothing.

"I'm told he was not so good," Staire continued.  "Rather mucked
the thing up, I'm told.  Of course, if a scrum-half funks going
down to the ball . . ."

"I didn't funk," Jeremy growled.

"My mistake.  I wasn't there, of course.  Only what I was told."
Then he saw the picture.

"Good heavens!  What's that?"  They all crowded forward.

"Is this a picture that I see before me?"  Staire stood back and
struck an attitude.  "Certainly it's got a frame, but otherwise . . .
Dear me, Cole, is that your effort?"

"Oh, shut up!"  Jeremy, red with anger, swung round.  "You think
you're awfully funny, don't you, Staire?  Well, you aren't.  Not
funny at all."

But the picture was delighting them all.

"And what is this picture OF?" Staire inquired politely.  "I ought
to know, but I don't.  Perhaps it's the wrong way up!"

Jeremy then made a mistake.  "It's sheep in a field," he said
suddenly, seeing Uncle Samuel standing there at his side, close to
him.

Roars of delight greeted this remark.  "Sheep!  Oh, I say.  Look at
the sheep!  Come and look at the sheep!"

Jeremy sprang round upon them.  He was angry enough anyway, but
especially he was angry because it seemed that Uncle Samuel was
standing there, hair dishevelled, paint on his cheek and saying to
his young nephew:  "That's a pretty good picture.  You'll know one
day. . . ."

"Look here!  You leave this alone.  What business is it of yours?
Who asked your opinion?"

But it had gone beyond the private view.

"Sheep!  Sheep!  Come and look at Stocky's sheep!  Anyone want some
sheep!  Baa!  Baa!  Sheep!  Sheep!"

Baldock was closest, so Jeremy gave him a shove.  Crumb made a
snatch at the picture, and Jeremy made for him, hurling his body at
him like a catapult.

Crumb fell over Jeremy, on top of him.

The Study door was open, and because it was approaching First Prep.
multitudes of boys were thronging the passage.

Voices were shouting, "Sheep!  Sheep!  Baa!  Baa!  Baa!"  Jeremy's
table went over with a crash, then Gauntlet's.  Faces were crowding
the doorway.  "What's up?  What's the matter?"

Jeremy had pulled himself up from the floor, and, feeling now
nothing but a Berserk rage, seeing only blindly in a confusion of
dust and clothes and hair, seeking for Staire that he might pound
his body into a fine jelly, hysterically shouted:

"Yah!  Yah!  Goats!  Goats!  Who's a dirty goat!  Yak!  Yak!  Yak!"

This "Yak!" (destined to become so famous a war-cry) was evolved on
the spur of the occasion and was compounded of anger, breathlessness,
dust in the mouth, and once again, anger.

"What's up?  What's the matter! . . .  Come on, Stocky Cole's being
murdered!  Baa!  Baa!  Baa!"

Bodies tumbled, hurtling into the passage.  Boys, passing, were
carried into the conflict before they knew where they were.
Others, attracted by the splendid noise, hurried up.  It had been a
day on the whole inclining to dullness.  "Look out where you're
going!  Who are you barging?  Sheep!  Sheep!  Goats!  Goats! . . .
What is it?  What's the game?  Baa!  Baa!  Baa!"

And now the passage, narrow and straitened as it was, held a
fighting, struggling mass.  Like the lovers at the close of the
second act of the "Meistersinger," Baldock and Crumb and Gauntlet
had crept away, but Staire, who, to do him justice, loved a fight,
was in full, struggling glory, shrieking curses, and Jeremy,
fighting his way to him, his collar waving like a flag, was hitting
right and left, shouting his battle-cry.

The noise was fearful.  Behind the battle the Study, deserted and
peaceful as a tomb, surveyed the evening sky.

The dust rose, the clamour echoed to the sky; small boys were
trodden upon, big peace-loving boys were struck in the wind and
fell gasping against the wall; warriors strode forward not knowing
why they fought, but loving the conflict for its own good sake;
buttons flew, collars erupted, shirts were rent, private feuds
received a new lease of splendid life.  "Baa!  Baa!  Baa!  Yak!
Yak!  Yak!"

Shrieking voices carried the challenges, knowing nothing of what
they conveyed.

Then a stronger cry than all arose.

"Paddy!  Paddy!  'ware Paddy!"

In an instant of time figures were fleeing in every direction.  In
another instant the passage was empty.  Carrying forward once again
the Meistersinger's story, Leeson, his own Nightwatchman, appeared.

Not a soul to be seen.

Silence!

The bell clanged out for First Prep.



CHAPTER IV

RIDLEY


1


It was during the last space before actual waking that the sea
seemed to come right up to Jeremy's very feet.

Leeson was a fanatic about fresh air (not in those days so obvious
a matter of faith as now), and every window in every dormitory in
his house had all night its "top off" as Jeremy's erudite sister
Mary, thinking of boiled eggs, once defined it.

On stormy nights the roar of the sea was something that would have
disturbed new boys for hours had not their bodies been so weary and
their souls so oppressively exhausted that sleep they must have,
were the Last Trump sounding in their ears.  Even in the smoothest
summer weather the purr and murmur of it rustled about the beds and
sang into the pillows.

There was not a boy but loved the sound of it, fine or storm,
before he had been long at Crale--and there are those of us who,
all our days, will miss it at waking.

There were nights when Jeremy dreamed his very body and soul away;
others when weariness was so heavy that the iron gates dropped
down, and drugged with deep heaviness he lay, a little corpse.  On
the nights when the dreams came the sea came with them, sometimes
not until the last, the water rushing up, splashing fanwise in
stretches of green and emerald over the flat, shining rocks,
tearing the shingle, then sighing again with an ironic croon of
disillusionment.

Wherever he had been until then, riding a gigantic white elephant
through a jungle of tea-leaves; kicking Staire down an endless
flight of glassy stairs; having tea with Uncle Samuel in a balloon
like a football and waiting with panic and dismay for the god-like
boot that was to descend and kick them both into space; or
presenting Leeson with a bill for damages, a bill so long that it
stretched across Coulter's and the tail of it fell over the rocks
and into the sea; or swinging like a monkey from tree to tree,
through a garden of purple trees and white hyacinth--always the end
of it was this sharp plunge into salt water, first to sink into
dark green depths, then to rise and so, borne on the breast of a
giant wave, be carried like an emperor, far up the shore.

The clanging of the bell sounded even through the rush of the
surge.  But knowing it for what it was, he would yet struggle on
not to recognize it, clinging with his naked toes to the bare
glittering rocks, shouting his defiance to a relentless wall of
rock that mounted and mounted. . . .

His last and most desperate hold was through his sense of smell.
The salt, savourless tang of wet seaweed that popped under your
thumb, the crisp, fierce, cold-white salt of the stinging wave, the
glasslike surface smell of the wet rock, hard and cool as your own
naked shoulder, the warm crumbling smell of the hot sand, myriad-
shining under a fierce sun, the pink echoing scent of the shells,
too faint to be named a smell, too friendly to be disregarded;
then, best of all, the warm, smacking smell of the roaring sun on
back and buttock, like the tang of friendly fingers, and the hot,
dry contact of sunburnt arm against sunburnt arm; last of all the
dry, papery smell of the shirt that had been lying sunbathed on the
rock as you pulled it over your head, sinking for a moment your
nose and eyes and mouth into that choking, clothy odour, starchy
and homely with the sudden, sharp, cold contact of your fingers
against the round, white buttons. . . .

Again and again Jeremy had all this in his nostrils before he took
the last leap into active consciousness--then the clang of the bell
scattered it to nothing and yawning, rubbing his eyes, in another
instant he was out on the floor, his night-shirt flapping about his
calves, pouring the water from the shining tin can into the shining
tin basin.

So little time was there between the shrill summons of the beastly
bell and the moment of Call-Over (which WAS, in truth, but a
moment, so that it would be missed only too easily, and the
consequences of that missing only too irritating) that no one had a
thought of conversation.  Everywhere water was splashing in and out
of basins; some boys stripped, some boys didn't.  Some, and these,
for the most part, the harassed new ones, were always later than
they ought to be.

Every dormitory held a cubicle and every cubicle sheltered the
magnificent body of a sixth form senior.  And it was somebody's
duty to bring that majesty hot water in a lordly jug, but, thank
heaven, it was Jeremy's duty no longer.

Just now it was the duty of a small, round, fluffy new boy who was
like a ball of worsted or a startled canary or a persecuted
dormouse.  Jeremy was vaguely aware of him as he scuttled down the
passage between the beds and the basins with the can of hot water.
In the distance he heard him cursed, and thanked his destiny that
he himself was a new boy no longer.

He had, in fact, reduced this five-minutes' dressing to an exact
science: an instant from bed to washing-stand, an instant pouring
out the water, an instant naked and chill with all the breezes of
heaven about your body, then shirt, trousers, collar and tie as
though you were one of those music-hall men whose profession it is
to be Napoleon, George Washington and Henry Irving (hat, wig and
waistcoat complete) in one blinding flash.  To such a science had
he brought this that he could afford now to clean his teeth, a
process that he oddly and obscurely enjoyed--oddly because there
was no other boy in Leeson's who did not either avoid it altogether
or curse it for a grandmotherly penance.

Then, dragging on coat and waistcoat at one and the same moment, he
would be across the passage and down the stairs and waiting in Long
Hall for Call-Over or ever the First Prep. Master (poor, yawning
devil!) had turned the corner.

He prided himself on his discipline.  Save once when he had been on
the sick-list with chicken-pox he had never missed a Call-Over--
yes, something efficient about that!

But First Prep. was a horrible affair.  Our more recent and saner
education has decided that it is not the wisest thing in the world
for small boys from eight years upward to sit in an icy cold class-
room, without food in their stomachs, at seven of a winter's
morning.  The tradition was fine, even though in the discipline of
it infants caught maladies that lasted them a life-time.  Jeremy
caught nothing during this chilly hour, not even education.  He was
always at this time but half awake, and had the long bare room been
warm he and his fifty companions would, master or no master, have
happily slumbered.  But your position, huddle though you might over
your book, was, as it were, peaked on an iceberg.  There was
humiliation in it, too, for this was the only hour of the day when
the Middle Form Study boys were compelled to prepare with the
common herd.  Common they looked to Jeremy, faces white and drawn
under the hissing gas.  He was no snob, but it's amazing what two
days in a study can do for you!

This morning he was in no way tempted to slumber, not because
fifteen lines of The Georgics compelled his attention, but rather
that he had matters of the very gravest import to consider.

But before he could put his mind truly into these he was disturbed
by a kind of sniffling, whistling noise close at his side.  He
looked around him with a sort of burglar-like agility, a grace and
artifice acquired by all small boys, so that you may do anything
from "noughts and crosses" and gambling halfpennies to carrying on
an exchange of notes with a correspondent half a room away and yet,
it seems, not wink so much as an eyelid.

So, studying attentively his Georgics, he realized that the
sniffling came from the same small, round, fluffy new boy who had
carried that morning the Dormitory Head's hot water.

Crale, at this period of its life, had not developed the
magnificent separated Preparatory Department that it now possesses,
and infants were hurled into the maelstrom of its turbulent life
their lips yet wet with their mother's milk.

This child, as Jeremy observed, was eleven at the most and looked
considerably younger than that.  His clothes, dusty and
dishevelled, were huddled on to him, his hair was ruffled, his
collar stained with ink, and yet, with all this, as Jeremy yet
further observed, he looked a clean sort of kid and a decent.

Jeremy had no sentiment about suffering new boys.  He had been
through it himself and thought it quite natural that others should
go through it, but something in the sound of that secretive,
persistent sniffling both irritated and touched him.  He scribbled
on a scrap of paper--"Don't blub, the chaps will rag you if they
hear you.  Cole"--then twisted it into a dart and flicked it--
brilliantly efficient with constant practice--on to the infant's
book.  It was picked up, read, then two large and watering eyes
stared in his direction, a faint and ill-determined smile also came
his way.  He frowned back.  He felt that he had been a fool.  He
was not in any case going to have the kid trailing after him.  But
his purpose was accomplished.

The sniffling ceased.


2


Meanwhile he had matters of the utmost importance to consider.

This row of the evening before threatened to develop into something
of considerable seriousness.  In its inception it had been so
sudden that he could scarcely remember how it had all started.
Over that picture of Uncle Samuel's of course, but that had been,
like the origin of all great wars, a small spark to set the stack
ablaze!  Of course it was the fact that he and Staire had been
spoiling for a fight for the last year; and if this had been simply
a personal matter between the two of them--well, there was no harm
in that.  All to the good that it should come out into the open.
But as a personal matter it was obviously not going to rest!

Already the whole of the Lower School in the House had taken it up,
and this was only third day of Term!

It happened often enough towards the end of terms, when nerves were
jaded and everyone was sick of the sight of everyone else, that
small conflicts should break out, but so early as this!

The fact was, as he dimly recognized, that the younger half of the
House had, during the last year, been taking sides in Orange-and-
Lemon fashion behind either himself or Staire.

Staire, although unvindictive and not by nature cruel, had always
the attitude of Grand Seigneur to his rightful peasantry, while
Jeremy was democratic, not from any set philosophy but rather from
laziness and an easy good-humour.  It was the "swell" thing to
admire and follow Staire, the rebellious and defiant thing to
believe in Stocky Cole.  There was, further, the ancient rivalry of
cricket and football, and beyond that, again, the eternal principle
in the hearts of all small boys that they must follow something or
somebody.

Had there been in Leeson's at that time other prominent middle-
school figures, the rivalry would have been dissipated, but, by
chance, there were none.  The Middle and Lower School was a world
to itself, with its own traditions, superstitious catch-words,
codes of honour, and this world was, again, in every House
separated from the worlds of the other Houses.

Well and good, then.  But the trouble was that Jeremy did not want
a "scrap" this term.  For one thing it promised to be the most
important term of his school life and all his energies must be
concentrated on the football possibility.  He was most anxious to
come into no kind of conflict with the authorities.  He had had, in
the past, no small reputation as a disturber of the peace, but he
had come back, after the thoughtful resolutions of these last
holidays, with a resolve towards quiet and dignified conduct.

This resolve had been strangely strengthened by his odd
conversation yesterday with Leeson.  Of course Paddy had talked "an
awful lot of rot," but there HAD been something in it.  Paddy had
put him on his honour, as it were, and although he would never
admit it to himself, his pride had been tickled by the suggestion
that he was of influence now in the House's affairs.

Every reason, then, to have no sort of row this term; and yet here,
at the very start of things, was a row of the very first order
promising!

Of course, if Staire and his set WANTED to have a row they should
have one.  Jeremy would accept any challenge from anywhere--but he
couldn't help but wish that they would think better of it!

Preparation was over.  He hurried off to the study and there, lying
on his table, was a large, not ill-drawn picture of a sheep with a
human (more or less) face.  And out of its mouth, balloonwise,
proceeded "baa's."

Gauntlet coming in, Jeremy showed it to him.

Gauntlet was non-committal.  "Everyone's talking about last night,"
he said.

"Well, it wasn't my fault," Jeremy said defiantly.

"Of course it wasn't," agreed Gauntlet.  "All the same I'd stick
that picture of your uncle's away."

"I'm blowed if I will," Jeremy answered hotly.

"Someone will come in and tear it up."

"Let them.  My uncle's got dozens more."

"Has he?" Gauntlet inquired politely.

"Look here," Jeremy said huskily, "if you want to be Staire's
friend, you jolly well can.  You needn't think, just because we
share a study, that you've got to be on my side."

Gauntlet faintly flushed.  "I'm not on anybody's side.  I think
it's all awful rot.  What have you got against Staire, Stocky?"

"I don't know."  Jeremy shuffled his feet.  "He's all right, I
suppose.  What's he got against me, for that matter?"

"I don't think he's got anything," said the budding diplomatist.
"I think he'd like you, if you'd let him."

"I'm not going to let him," said Jeremy.  "I don't want Staire to
like me."

"There you are, then," said Gauntlet.  "It's your fault."

"No, it isn't," said Jeremy.  "I don't like him, but I don't want
to scrap with him all the time.  I don't want to scrap with anyone
this term."

"Shall I tell him that?" asked Gauntlet.

"No!  I'm blowed if you will!  He'll think I funk him."

"Oh, no, he won't," Gauntlet answered, a moment of real sincerity
coming to him.  "No one thinks you funk anything."

Here was a tribute, but Gauntlet's tributes were always suspect.

"You see," Gauntlet went on, "all the kids in the Lower School are
keen as anything on you two keeping it up.  It'll go awfully far if
you don't stop it.  Crumb and Baldock have been round already this
morning making all the new kids swear that they loathe you or
they'll get their bottoms kicked."

Jeremy swore in a fashion unknown to his relations.  "If I catch
Crumb--" he began.

"Morton and Frewer and some of the others have been just as bad on
your side.  It's pretty rotten on the small kids because, whichever
way they go, they'll get their bottoms kicked."

Jeremy frowned.  He looked at Uncle Samuel's picture and wished it
in the deeps of the sea.  Then suddenly, for no obvious reason, he
wanted to kick Gauntlet.

"And now you'll go and tell Staire everything we've said."

This roused Gauntlet, because it was exactly what he intended to
do.

"Oh, if you're going to take it that way," he said, moving off,
"settle your own mess."

"I never asked your advice, anyway," said Jeremy.

"Who said you did?  All right, you needn't get ratty."

"Who's ratty?"

"You are."

"No, I'm not."

"Of course you are," Gauntlet retorted.  He had his final fling
before he left the room.  "That's just what's the matter with you.
Think you're God Almighty!"


3


Yes, there was no doubt but that a new life was sweeping in on
every side.

There was, for instance, Parlow to be considered.  Two hours spent
that morning in his educational company showed Jeremy one thing
most plainly.

Parlow's liking for certain boys and dislike for others would be
the most striking feature of that term's work.  Parlow did not at
first sight seem to be the kind of man who would have favourites.
Big and red and jolly-faced, you would have said, to look at him,
that he would be fair above everything.  Jeremy had, in the past,
seen in dim distance Forrest who had had to leave, it was said,
because his passion for favourite-making went to such lengths, and
Forrest had been a little mousy, timid, large-spectacled creature.
It was natural that he should be an ass. . . .

It was partly, perhaps, that Parlow put such energy and feeling
into everything that he did.  Chaps said that when he was angry the
very room rocked with his shouts.  To see him in his shirt-sleeves,
glaring at an offender, was a sight worth going miles for, so
everyone said!

And, on the other hand, Jeremy knew from the very first lesson that
he had ever had with him how charming he could be!

He liked Parlow for this very naturalness.  Normally he would have
hated a master who made favourites--all boys do, but in Parlow's
case it was not resented because behind it was a true, passionate
admiration for good work, good play, courage and honesty.  He
didn't like boys for the silly, soppy reasons that moved masters
like Forrest--because boys sucked up, were sycophantic, pretended
to do anything that they were told.  He would dislike a boy of that
kind; he simply could not endure sluggishness, whether mental or
physical, and any kind of cowardice was a red rag to him.

At the same time it was hard on the boys who were terrified by
anger.  They might be brave enough in other ways, but the sight of
a raging bull (in whose absolute power they were) simply paralysed
them and scattered such brains as they had to splinters.

There was a boy in the form, Standing by name, who had already
suffered a year of Parlow's hostility and Jeremy saw at once that
the sound of Parlow's voice was enough to drive any idea out of his
head.  Jeremy could not understand being like that.  If Parlow was
going to rage at him, it would simply make him obstinate.

But Parlow was not going to rage at him.  It was plain enough to
everybody that, among the new boys in the form, Jeremy and Staire
were to be the favourites.  Here, once again, they were brought
into rivalry.

Parlow treated them in different ways; he joked with Jeremy and was
serious with Staire.  It was clear enough that of the two boys
Staire had the better brains.  He had very good superficial brains
indeed.  His mind was accurate and clear.  He did not work very
hard, but fortune was always on his side in showing him the easiest
way out.  Mentally as well as physically he was neat and alert and
extremely civilized.  He could reject at once all the things that
socially would be of no use to him.  He thought clearly, because
the thing itself mattered very little to him--the result of his
making a success of the thing mattered everything.  He was in this
class as he was in his House, a little apart from everyone else, as
though he were of another race.

Jeremy, on the other hand, was in the thick of it all.  If he
didn't grasp a point he fought to grasp it as though he were a
bulldog hanging on to an enemy.  His struggles were obvious to
everyone, and because they were courageous and honest they amused
Parlow.

Sometimes he was slow and sometimes he was quick.  Sometimes he was
lost altogether.  Sometimes the smallest detail would lead him
astray so that he wandered miles afield.  He didn't look like a
poet, but beautiful things said and done and represented moved him
as they would never in all his days move Staire.  On this very
morning Standing made some blunder over his Virgil and the tempest
broke.  Parlow's anger on this occasion was cold, icy, bitter.
Standing, who was a thin, rather good-looking boy of Jeremy's age,
sat down, white, his hand trembling against his desk.  A moment
later Jeremy, called on to translate, made a blunder similar to
Standing's.  Parlow, jokingly, abused him.

"You're an ass, Cole," he said.  "But not such a silly ass as you
want me to believe."

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy, and smiled.  The whole form knew that Cole
would be, this term, a thunder-averter.  Good for Cole!


4


Coming out of class at midday he encountered Jumbo, and they walked
together across Coulter's to the fields beyond, where, standing on
a flat, ancient-looking rock, you could behold the sea.

To-day the sea was white and green like a ruffled parrot's wing,
and the brown fields ran down to it, under the wind, as though
driven with flicks of a giant's whip.  The clouds came in galleons
through the trees, pressed full-sail, eager, urgent, hurrying about
their business, and gulls were like fragments of these clouds
scattered on the soil.

It was a fine day for energy and determination and so Jeremy felt
it; but, amazingly, Jumbo, the stolid and immovable Jumbo, felt it
even more.

Yes, Jumbo was excited as Jeremy had never seen him before.  The
"scrap" of yesterday was the cause.

It seemed, although he had never said much about it, that he had
always loathed Staire and resented his dominance.  Now there was to
be a fight, an open hand-to-hand fight, and he would be in it.

"It's all very well for you to talk," said Jeremy gloomily.  "But
it's no joke for me.  There's Paddy just been jawing me about my
being an influence in the House, and on the very second day of term
I start what's going to be the worst row I've ever had."

"It isn't your fault," said Jumbo.  "You didn't start it.  He
laughed at your uncle's painting."  Then he added inconsequently:
"What you ever stuck it up there for I can't imagine.  You might
have expected chaps would rag it.  Anyway, there's no reason Staire
should."

"A fat lot you know about painting," Jeremy answered rudely.  "If
you want to fight Staire, you can, and you'll be nicely licked,
too.  I don't want a row, what with the footer and everything.
But, of course, if he laughs at my uncle, he's asking for it."

Jumbo had stayed in Polchester and had met Uncle Samuel.  Why
Jeremy was so keen about him, he did not understand.  He had
himself been afraid of him and thought him a dirty-looking man--the
Arts meant less than nothing in Jumbo's life.  But that was
Jeremy's affair.  He was Stocky's friend, and if someone laughed at
Stocky's uncle that was enough.

He was, in fact, freshly alive.  Eagerly he began to outline to
Jeremy all his plans for the campaign.  The thing was to organize
the small kids.  To find out exactly who were on the right side and
who were not.  To divide them into regular bands under proper
commanders, so that they might perpetually harass and worry the
enemy, to devise plots and scheme manoeuvres. . . .

Jeremy cut his eagerness short.  Jumbo, this morning, was
irritating him exceedingly.  Jumbo often did irritate him.  Why?
He was his best friend.  They had been so much together that they
ought to understand one another.  Jeremy felt that he understood
Jumbo down to his very last button, but Jumbo did not understand
HIM.  Why?  What was lacking?

He was not in general a psychologist, but he did at this moment,
his hair blown in the wind, facing the green and wrinkled sea,
consider friendship.

He was anything but sentimental and yet he wished that, in one way
or another, Jumbo was more important.  Some fellows had marvellous
friendships, friendships in which you talked about everything that
was in your mind, and thought one another simply wonderful.  He did
not think Jumbo wonderful--not at all.  Jumbo was Jumbo and never,
no never, anything more.

He turned restlessly away and, as he moved, saw a boy near to him
gazing at the sea.

At the instant that he saw this boy something happened to him.  He
stared at him as though he had known him all his life and yet, as
far as he was aware, he had never seen him before.

The boy was considerably older than himself, thin, pale-faced, not
in any way remarkable to look at.  He stood, staring at the sea,
motionless, absorbed.  His face was reserved, quiet, and in some
way remote and austere.  Jeremy felt at once that this boy was
everything that he would himself like to be.  He did not know why
he felt that; he simply was certain that he would listen to every
word that this boy said as though it were law.  He was oddly and
most unusually excited.

"I say," he twitched Jumbo's arm, "who's that?"

Jumbo, who was irritated because his warlike plans had been
unexpectedly rebuffed, answered sulkily:  "I don't know.  Where?"

"Over there!"

"Oh, that. . . ."  Jumbo studied him.  "I know; he's a fellow in
Frost's.  He's in the Sixth.  His name's Ridley."

"How do you know?"

"He goes to Toft for drawing when I do.  He's jolly good, too.  But
that's all he IS good at.  He's awfully stuck-up.  He never speaks
to a soul."

Jeremy stared.

They walked away slowly.  Jeremy stared back.

"He looks awfully decent."

"Oh, he's all right, I expect."

Jumbo turned once again to his plans.  What had happened to Stocky?
Any other time he would have been as keen as anything at the
prospect of a real rag. . . .  Perhaps he wasn't well--had eaten
too much. . . .

Jeremy frowned and kicked the turf with his boot.

Yes, that was what he would LIKE to be.  Quiet, dignified.  Looking
at the sea and thinking.  His name was Ridley.  In the Sixth.
Frost's.  Oh, what was the use?  He'd never meet him.  Unless he
took up drawing.  But what was the good?  He couldn't draw for
nuts.

Ridley.  He'd like just to speak to him.  But of course he never
would.  You never met fellows in another House unless you played in
the same game or were in the same form.  And the Sixth. . . .
Miles and miles away.

He sighed then, ashamed of himself, ragged Jumbo, and they tumbled,
like a couple of puppies, into the noisy confusion of Coulter's.



CHAPTER V

THE DORMOUSE


1


I will, I hope, be forgiven if, for a moment, I leave Jeremy and
bring forward a very small, and in the eyes of most persons
unimportant, individual who was, however, to play a considerable
part in this crisis of Jeremy's life.

He did not, of course, know that.  When he came to Crale he was
aware of nothing but that he was going to an enchanting place where
he would be for ever playing enchanting games.  He had been there
now for three days and had already discovered that he was slightly
at fault in his anticipations.

His name was Charles Bentinck Morgan.  His age was precisely eleven
years and one month.  He was the child already noticed by Jeremy,
already nicknamed by his companions The Dormouse.

He was an only child.  His father was a prosperous and honourable
member of the London Stock Exchange, his mother, a charming lady,
first cousin of Janet Poole's.  This is to imply that Charles
Bentinck Morgan had spent those eleven years of his in the most
perfect surroundings, hedged in with people who loved him, who,
indeed, adored him.  Because he was an only child, and because
there was no chance that there would ever be another, his father
and mother worshipped him with a dangerous devotion, and yet they
had not spoiled him.

He was not spoiled because he had a nature like a puppy's, happy,
trusting and always on the side of good fortune.  It seemed to him
that life was a lovely affair.  He could not conceive of anything
better.  He loved every dog and every dog loved him.

It was because he was an only child and had known every comfort and
pleasure that his father decided not to send him to a private
school (where he might be petted and indulged) but to plunge him at
once into Crale.

His mother was afraid, but then all mothers are nervous.  She was
sure, moreover, that her husband was always right.  Then young
Charles's own supreme confidence confirmed theirs.  Because he was
an only child he had never had enough of the company of other
children.

He loved other children, any child who would play with him.  But in
the big London house when children came they were inclined to be
overwhelmed by the splendours and the ceremonies.

Charles, having been much with grown-up people, had an air of old-
fashioned courtesy as host.  There was always a little division
between himself and the others.  Down in Leicestershire it was the
same.  Although he had in himself no conceit or grandeur, his
position isolated him.

Then, because he was a good deal alone, he lived much in his own
imaginary world.  His mother, who was beautiful and gentle, told
him stories that had been told her in her own childhood, and she
herself still half believed them.  The two of them would sit on a
summer's evening in the garden of the Leicestershire house and
stare at the great oak on the lawn and watch the sky pale through
the lattices of the dark leaves, and see the moon rise above the
evening scent of the flowers.  It seemed no unlikely moment for
Oberon and Titania to appear. . . .

So it was time, perhaps, that Charles Bentinck Morgan should go to
a real work-a-day school with no nonsense about it.

And indeed Charles Bentinck Morgan was panting with eagerness to be
off!


2


He could not be as greatly distressed at leaving his mother as he
ought to be.  This departure seemed to him merely a beautiful
interlude in a beautiful adventure.  There would be boys, as many
boys as he could possibly want.  He imagined them to himself
scattered all about the Leicestershire lawns, boys and boys and
boys, all laughing and shouting, crammed with suggestions for new
games so glorious that the day would never be long enough to enjoy
the half of them.

His father had told him that there would also be work to do; he was
not at all frightened at the prospect of that.  He was very fond of
reading, had learnt a lot of poetry, and knew an astonishing amount
of English History.  Coeur de Lion, the Black Prince, Henry V,
Nelson, Wellington were his familiar friends, and would often come
and talk to him under the big oak on the Leicestershire lawn.  No,
if learning more about men like that was work he had nothing
against it. . . .

His father took him down to Crale.  Father and son were strangely
alike.  Morgan Senior was tall, which Morgan Junior was not, and
Morgan Senior was not fat, which Morgan Junior at this moment, I am
sorry to say, was inclined to be.  But they both had the same fair
hair, round, rosy faces, and a rather childish, baby-like stare in
their blue eyes.  They both gave an impression of supreme
cleanliness and English unsubtlety.  Morgan Senior was about as
English as a human soul can manage, in these international days, to
be; that is, he had no imagination but deep feelings, no strong
perception of other psychologies, but a tender and almost feminine
kindliness.  He would not tread on a worm if he could help it, but
would shoot thousands of birds, chase a fox all day, and torture a
salmon for hours at the end of a rod and line.  He was so honest
that foreigners loved him and laughed at him.  He adored England
and patronized all other countries, without a doubt as to the
justice of his patronage.  He loved his wife and his child so
deeply that he never said a word, or thought a thought about it.

Morgan Junior was like his father but ALSO like his mother.  He
showed his feelings as his father had never done.  He was the child
of both his parents.

Arrived at Crale Mr. Morgan had tea with Mr. and Mrs. Leeson,
received an impression of good English tradition and splendour from
the Crale buildings and surroundings, and, tipping his son
liberally, departed.

Young Charles, in the company of several other new boys, was led by
Leeson into the Locker Room, where the Lower School boys had their
kingdom.  Each new boy was given a locker into which he might cast
his cherished private possessions.  Leeson then returned to further
interviewing of anxious parents.

It was then that the Dormouse felt his first faint chill of
apprehension, the first of all his young life.  He was surprisingly
aware that he missed his father and had a strange, choking
sensation in his throat.  The room was a babble of noise and, in
the middle of this, the new boys clustered together like sheep in a
pen.

But they did not cluster together in any very friendly fashion.
Each regarded the other with acute suspicion, as though he was a
spy or traitor.  The Dormouse, looking at them, felt that none of
them was exactly the friend that he would have chosen to play with
him under the garden oak.  The room was bare and ugly beyond
belief, and the noise in some way fierce and alarming.

The boys, too, seemed to him all very large and strong.  None of
them looked at him with kindly, smiling face, nor did he feel that
he wanted to join in their games, which seemed in a strange way to
be compact of anger and insult.

Then someone cried:  "I say!  New boys!"

There was a rush in the direction of the helpless sheep, then a
battering of noisy, mocking questions:

"What's your name?"

"Who's your father?"

"Who's your mother?"

"When did you see your aunt last?"

"Who did you kiss most before you left home?"

The new boys received these questions each according to individual
character.  The most were terrified and showed it; one with
plastered, fair hair and a thin-shaped face answered with eager
sycophancy and in a moment had given some smutty reply.  One boy
stood frowning, answered nothing, and when at last someone pinched
his arm, let out wildly with his fists and was involved immediately
in a confusion of dust, collars and jackets.  One boy began to cry,
which delighted everybody and they danced a ring round him,
singing:


     Cry-Baby, Cry-Baby,
     Wants His Mammy,
     Wants His Mammy,
     Ooo!  Ooo!  Ooo!


Young Charles was at first unnoticed.  He stood bewildered, staring
wildly from one to another.  Then a large, stout boy who seemed to
be about to burst from his clothes discovered him.

"Hullo!  What's your name?"

Terrified at the unkindly voice and threatening eyes he gulped:

"Charles Morgan."

"Charles Morgan!  Charles Morgan!  I say, here's Charlie Morgan.
What's your mother's name?"

No answer.

Then he said something filthy and entirely beyond young Charles's
comprehension.

No answer.

The boy caught his arm and twisted it.  The noise now was
deafening.  No harm intended by anyone.  A little natural jungle
savagery.

Only a year or so before these same tyrants had been themselves the
victims, had endured a week or two's exquisite misery and
loneliness and helplessness and then, for the most part, passed
into a noble and care-free independence.  Moreover, no loneliness
and isolation would ever again be quite so sharp and painful as
this loneliness and isolation, so that these three weeks' gallantry
made them free for ever of life--of its brutalities, selfishness,
unconsidering cruelties.  This great merit in our public school
system then--it stiffens your back for anything.  It is only the
too imaginative who are more than temporarily bruised and even they
not for ever.  There are prizes for those who suffer the severest
unknown to the others and it is these who often in the end love
their school with the finest devotion.

But young Charlie Morgan might not see so far into the future.  It
is the tragedy of childhood that its catastrophes are eternal.  And
something, some confidence and pure happiness, departed there and
then, in that Locker Room at Crale, from Charles Morgan's soul,
never again to return.

His arm twisted, his body kicked, his hair tumbled, he was at last
flung back against a locker and so left and forgotten.  The boy who
cried was the most interesting.  He was actually asking to be
returned forthwith to his home and mother, the most amusing thing
that a new boy can do.

Young Charlie stayed where he had been put.  He did not cry; he did
not move; he just stared in front of him.  His collar was torn,
there were large patches of dust on his trousers.  His arm and legs
ached.  But he was conscious of none of this.  He was only aware of
one thing and one thing only, that he must return to the
Leicestershire lawn with the utmost possible speed and never,
never, NEVER, come near this place again.


3


After a while he realized that he was forgotten, and keeping close
to the locker, as though the rest of the room were an open angry
sea in whose waters he would inevitably be drowned, he crept to the
door and passed out into a long and empty passage.

This passage was hung with overcoats; and, governed by the
conviction that the only hope of safety was complete obscurity, he
climbed on to the projecting boarding and then hid himself in one
of the coats completely.

Here in this stuffy, choking darkness, he stayed trembling.  Little
shivers of apprehension ran through his body.  He had the wisdom to
know that he must not think of his mother or the gardens or his
father because then he would cry, and he was determined not to cry.
That seemed to him the most important thing in all the world--that
he should not cry.

Meanwhile an emotion, entirely new to him, was slowly dominating
him--Fear.

It had always been proudly said of him at home that he did not know
what fear was--and it was true.  He had learnt to swim, to ride, to
shoot, would face without a tremor the wildest-looking dog, had
never, in his very youngest days, trembled at being left in the
dark.  He had trusted everyone and everything, so why should he
fear?

But now fear crept on him from every side.  He was afraid because
there was NO ONE to turn to.  As he had hung on to the lockers so
now he clung to this coat, because one step meant danger.  He was
isolated utterly, and would be so isolated, it seemed, for ever and
ever.  The only thing--yes, the only thing--was, when no one was
looking, to creep and creep until he found a door into the open and
then to run and run and RUN until he was back under the oak in
Leicestershire.

He was not, on this occasion, however, to be left long to his own
reflections.  He was found and dragged from his hiding-place by a
boy whom all his life he would remember with loathing and horror,
the boy already mentioned as an active adjutant of Staire, the boy
Baldock.

Now Baldock was not at all a bad boy--not bad to look at, being
brown and rosy like a pippin apple, not bad in character, being
generous, humorous and ungrudging--but he had more energy than he
knew how to use, no imagination, and at his present wild age of
fourteen or so, that proper allowance of unthinking cruelty that,
let fond parents deny it or no, is contained broadly in the half-
savage nature of all normal small boys.

Walking idly along he saw Charlie's boots protruding from beneath
the coat.  He dragged him out and pulled him to the ground.
Charlie, dishevelled as he was, round and plump, fluffy-haired,
wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked, had exactly that helpless immature look
of a young bird fallen from its nest that appeals irresistibly to
any young savage.

Really, if you had Baldock's exuberance and sense of fun, you would
be compelled to do SOMETHING to this helpless fledgling.  So
Baldock, grinning with innocent amusement, twisted Charlie's arms,
squeezed his head under his arm, pinched his legs and in general
playfully ill-treated him.

"You're just like a dormouse," he said, laughing.  "Wake up!  Wake
up!"  And he pulled his ears, as you dig a doll in its stomach to
mark its squeal.

Baldock, as he looked at him, liked the kid.  He dragged him along
the corridor, pinching him as he went.  A lucky find, this Dormouse
should be his especial property.


4


No tortures, as sufferers in all Inquisitions have discovered, last
for ever.

A new force soon seized the Dormouse--that of Routine.

There is nothing in after-life so sudden as that precipitant fall
that a small child, hitherto an individual and comparatively free,
knows when, in an instant of time, he is caught by the machinery of
a great Public School.  For many boys, ignorant and bewildered, it
is a relief; its penalty is that it catches personality by the
throat and chokes it.

For the Dormouse, who had never found obedience to those he loved
difficult, this sudden obedience to those he did not love (shadowy
forms of dark, overwhelming power) only dumbly increased his
despair.  He was commanded to do this and he did it; to be here and
he was here; but for the first time in his soul there was
rebellion.  Had his unhappiness been less, his rebellion would have
been stronger.  As it was he moved dumbly and blindly.

He became, for the time being, idiotic.  It was as though he were
moving in a foreign country whose language he did not know.  He did
not understand the simplest words that were spoken to him.  He
started with terror when anyone addressed him.  He had only one
thought--to escape from that horrible place at the first possible
moment.

He had, however, from the beginning, a sense of the hugeness of the
school and of his own minute size in relation to it.  There was his
own immediate world of the Locker Room, vast enough in itself, then
beyond that was his House, then beyond that again the School
itself.  At the bottom of this towering structure he moved, a tiny
midge.

One mercy at least he was granted, the terrible Baldock was not in
his dormitory.  On that first night he huddled into bed, thankful
beyond all possible words to escape attention.  He had promised his
mother that each night he would say his prayers.  He tried to do
so, cowering under the sheets, but could remember nothing, not even
the Lord's Prayer.  But no one spoke to him, no one tormented him.

He awoke to the sound of the sea.  He was unaccustomed to that and
for a while lay there, unable to remember where he was.  Then, with
an agony of apprehension it came to him.  All this coming day he
would be at someone's mercy unless he could succeed in escaping.
When the bell clanged he was ordered to fetch hot water from the
bath-room at the end of the passage for the Dormitory Prefect.  He
hastened as though his life depended on being in time, and then, in
the cubicle surveying what seemed to him a tousle-headed man
sitting up in bed and yawning, terror seized him again.  He could
only stand there and stare.

Someone roared at him.  He put down the jug and crept away.  His
fingers refused to clothe him.  Everyone pulling on coat and
waistcoat was rushing from the room.

He arrived in time, but the Call-Over master selected him from
everyone because of his untidiness.  And indeed he was untidy with
his hair unbrushed, his collar torn, his trousers stained with
dust.

All day confusion deepened.  He was hurried here, there,
everywhere--first to this class-room, then that, pushed into
crowds, dragged out of them again, ordered here, ordered there,
all, as it seemed, without either plan or reason.

Fear and Bewilderment!  Bewilderment and Fear!

His fear was justified.  In the evening, after tea, Baldock
(shouting with pleasure) found him.  A ring was made around him and
the points of a Dormouse were emphasized with indecency and
brutality.  He was asked repeatedly as to whether he were awake or
no and was pinched in every part of his body to make this certain.

Evening Preparation came and he sat, a pile of brand new books
before him, hungry, cold and desperately tired.  He did not
understand in the least what work he had to do and did not care.
All that he wanted was to sleep.  And so he slept, his head on the
wooden table.

A gigantic Baldock stood over him, growing ever larger and larger.
Baldock was shouting at him and then pushing him into a deep lake
filled with black ink.  With a cry he awoke and found that it was
not Baldock who stood over him but the Preparation Master.

"What do you think you're here for?" he asked him.

Once more he was so deeply terrified that he could say nothing.
This Master was the same who had taken early Call-Over.  He
remembered him.

"What's your name?"

The Dormouse stammered his name.

"Not made a very good beginning, have you?"

The Dormouse stared and stared.

"You're not at home now, you know."

No, indeed, he was not.  He realized that.

"Yes, you look sleepy, I must say."

One of those small boys who never misses an opportunity of being on
social terms with a master piped up:

"Yes, sir.  He's called The Dormouse, sir."

There was a general titter.  Anything is welcome that breaks
Preparation monotony.

"All right.  That will do. . . .  Well, you'd better go to bed,
Morgan.  I'll tell your form-master that I sent you."

So, publicly disgraced, the Dormouse crept away.

There came then the morning when waking early, listening to the
roar and plunge of the sea, quite suddenly he began to cry.  He
hadn't cried until now.  Now, his head buried in the clothes, he
cried and cried.

It was at Preparation on this morning that Jeremy heard him
snivelling and threw him his note.


5


In spite of his bewilderment and fear certain figures had been made
already apparent to him, and Jeremy was one of these.

There was much talk in the Locker Room about Stocky Cole and the
possibility of his winning his School Colours this term.  Some
thought "yes" and some thought "no."  Some praised Stocky, some
abused him, but he was a figure in the Locker Room.

When, therefore, the Dormouse read that fragment of badly-scrawled-
upon paper something happened to him--Stocky Cole became, in that
immediate and actual moment, his god.

On the preceding evening he had been involved, his luck being just
now entirely out, in the opening sheep-and-goat skirmish.  Someone
from some murky distance had shouted "Fag" and someone close to him
had given him a shove, telling him it was his "Call."

He had moved blindly forward, always with that precipitate and
nervous movement that was quickly becoming second nature with him.

He had been bright and sharp enough at home, but in this place it
seemed that, hurry as he might, he must be always behindhand.
Everyone cursed him for slowness; it was partly perhaps that, in
his bewilderment, he took so many wrong turnings, moving for ever
in a labyrinth of indistinguishable paths.  He didn't know; indeed,
he hadn't time to think.

On this occasion, hearing the cry of "Fag" for ever gathering
volume (seeming to be, through all the murkiness, very especially
directed at himself) he ran, bumping into mysterious bodies and
bumping out again, knocking against corners, tumbling over boxes.

He found the Study and there, standing in front of a fire, naked to
the waist, rubbing himself with a towel, was an enormous creature
who shouted something that to the Dormouse sounded the wildest
"Brekekek-Koax." . . .

"Yes, sir," breathlessly stammered the Dormouse, and started
running again.

It wasn't until he had tumbled some distance into further obscurity
that he realized that he did not know what it was that he was going
for.  It might be hot water, it might be eggs, jam, hair-brushes,
boot-polish, white mice or a fire-extinguisher.  He did not know.
He stopped, his heart thumping into his legs, partly with fear of
doing the wrong thing, partly with running.

A moment later the avalanche had caught him.  The passage was
filled with shouting and screaming bodies.  Some one caught him by
the hair and screamed "Baa" in his ear, and for a moment a lovely
sense of battle seized him and he was happy as he had not been
since his first coming to this place.  He knew rage, so infinitely
finer a feeling than sycophancy.  In his own modest way he kicked
and pummelled anything that came in his direction, uttering short,
sharp battle-cries.

His part of the passage was a hot and lusty mêlée, friend and foe
indistinguishable.  You fought for fighting's own sake and wished
it might last for ever.

Swiftly, though, there were cries of "Paddy" and the Dormouse found
himself, as now he was always finding himself, the last of everyone
and only away just in time as the long, lean, awe-inspiring figure
came round the corner.

That evening he learnt something of the meaning of the battle.

The small fry in the Locker Room were vastly stirred and excited so
deeply as to forget for a moment the tyrannies of caste and to
admit the new boys into their confidence.

It was all, as it seemed, an outcome of an ancient quarrel between
Stocky Cole and Red Staire, a really awful quarrel.  "They simply
couldn't stick one another," and it seemed that it was your
absolute duty immediately to take sides.  If, in fact, Preparation
had not sternly intervened, the quarrel would have broken out again
there and then in the Locker Room.

Like the strange mediæval parties in "Sordello" you simply had to
be at one another's throat even though the purpose of your quarrel
might be obscure.

It was not, however, obscure to the Dormouse even before Jeremy had
thrown his note at him.  Baldock, he had already sufficiently
learned, was Red Staire's friend and supporter.  Quite enough for
him to be at once and decisively on the other side.

But AFTER that morning incident he would permit himself to be drawn
and quartered (or, as he had read, the worst punishment of all, to
be pinioned for months under a drip of water which, at horrible
last, dug a hole into your head) willingly, yes and eagerly, for
his hero.

And, in fact, the drawing and quartering came more swiftly than he
had anticipated.

On that evening, after tea, the older boys of the Locker Room were
to be observed passing mysteriously from group to group.

The shifty-eyed new boy whose name was Ellys-Roberts, whose
character, it was at once apparent, was as shifty as his eyes,
informed the Dormouse that he would soon have to declare on whose
side he was--Staire's or Cole's--"and it doesn't much matter which
side you're on--you'll get whacked anyway.  I think Staire's side
is safer."

Staire's side, whether safer or no, on this evening was first in
the field, and Baldock had, of course, very soon detected the
Dormouse.  He advanced towards him, as he always did, with a
joyous, friendly air as of one who loved his fellow men.  And he
DID love the Dormouse, who added yet another zest to his already
extremely zestful life.

And the Dormouse was now even more lovable than he had been three
days ago, being now quite thoroughly awake, even though dazzled by
the new light.  His dishevelled, tumbled, blinking downiness was an
admirable subject for torture.  Such a little twist of the arm,
such a minute threat brought so swiftly that look of terror into
the eye, that shrinking of the quite defenceless body.

So Baldock grinned, caught the Dormouse's arm and twisted it, and
then explained to him that his name was now being added to a dirty,
tumbled piece of paper in Baldock's hand as of one who swore death
to Stocky Cole and all his filthy crowd of sheep!

The Dormouse blinked and Baldock, with further twists of the arm,
explained his purpose.

Then the Dormouse, pulling together all his scattered wits and
defying his aching arm, his trembling knees, and the threat of
tears, said:

"I won't!"

"Won't what?"

"Won't say what you want.  I'm on Cole's side!"

Amazement robbed Baldock of words.  At last he gasped:

"What!"

"I'm on Cole's side!"

"I say, listen!  Here's the Dormouse says he's on Stocky's side.
He defies us!  The Dormouse defies us!  OUR Dormouse defies us! . . .
Oh my!  Oh crikey!  Ye gods and little fishes!"

A pushing, laughing crowd surrounded the Dormouse and informed him
as to what would happen if he persisted in this.  Crumb, a worse
fellow than Baldock, white and puffy of face, white and puffy of
body and soul, gave a minute description of the following tortures:
the torture of the Electric Eel, the torture of the Fizzling Pants,
the torture of the Twisted Towel, the torture of Jumping Frog. . . .

The Dormouse listened.

"Well," said Baldock, smiling at him.  "You see what'll happen to
you if you stick to Cole.  He's in a Study now.  He won't be able
to protect you.  Besides, he wouldn't bother anyway.  Nobody knows
or cares what goes on in the Locker Room."

The Dormouse blinked but said nothing.

Baldock, slightly irritated because it seemed that he was being
made a fool of before his friends, repeated:

"Will you swear death to Cole and all his set?"

The Dormouse, to his own private surprise, gulped out firmly:

"No, I won't!"

What might have happened then no one knows.  A sudden shout from
another direction carried everyone away.

The Dormouse remained, his teeth chattering, ready for martyrdom.



CHAPTER VI

THE GAME AGAINST RADDAN


1


On the third Saturday of term there were two matches, the First
Fifteen at home against Merripath First, the Second away at Raddan.

The two teams were posted up on the Wednesday, and Jeremy, joining
the little crowd around the Boards, found that he was in the game
against Raddan.

At first he was conscious of a sharp stab of disappointment.  At
the beginning of last season the sight of his name in the Second
Fifteen had swelled him with pride and joy, now he was chagrined.
Then, looking again, he saw that Steevens's name was down with his
at half.

So that chance remark of his in the Changing Room had borne fruit!

Not wishing to risk a new experiment in a First Fifteen match, they
were going to see, in the comparative safety of a Second, how it
was likely to work.

How it was likely to work!  He became of a sudden strangely
apprehensive.  This had, after all, been only his idea, come upon
him from the Lord knew where!  He had never encountered Steevens
personally, had no idea what he thought about it!

Then, turning, he saw that Steevens himself was at his side, also
looking at the board.  Rather shyly he approached him.

"I say, they're playing us together in the Second."

"Yes.  What's the idea?"

"Don't know.  Suppose they thought they'd try it."

They looked awkwardly at one another.  In all the many years'
football relations they were to have together Jeremy was never to
know, beyond the football itself, any more of Steevens than he knew
at that moment.  There was, perhaps, nothing more to know.  He was
a thin, sandy-haired, pale-faced, spindle-shanked boy with
colourless eyes and a receding chin.  He was to prove himself a
great artist in one thing--Rugby football--and in that he was an
artist as Cortot on the piano, Casals on the 'cello.  An artist of
that order--reserved, delicate, strong and furiously self-
controlled.  Well, one art is enough, but Rugby football does not,
alas, last for ever. . . .

Steevens, later a clerk in the Foreign Office, may have permitted
Mrs. Steevens and the little Steevenses a glimpse of his divine
fire.  No other ever perceived it.  But at once Jeremy achieved
with him football intimacy.  During all their times together they
never spoke of anything else, never thought of anything else.  Even
here, Steevens never betrayed either excitement or enthusiasm.  He
had, as no other footballer ever known to Jeremy had (and before
the close of his football career there was no type of footballer
unknown to him), an inner, inspired wisdom in the game.  He had a
foreknowledge of movements, developments, crises that was nothing
less than supernatural.  He had no conceit--that would be for him
too exciting an emotion; but he played like a prince among
commoners.

He was, at the moment of this game against Raddan, almost unknown
at Crale.  He had, as I have already said, come late to the school.
To the last he remained impersonal, colourless, uninteresting.  He
had genius in this one thing, and, as it is so often with genius,
it came upon him as something exterior, in no way transmuting the
stuff of his personality.

Jeremy's alarm, however, grew as the three days passed.  How did he
know that this experiment would work, and, if it did not work, if
they failed as a pair at Raddan, then it might well be that he
would be condemned to the Second Fifteen for the rest of the
season.

Oh, well, he could wait; but he did not want to wait for another
season.  For him waiting was always a difficult thing.


2


Saturday was a beautiful day, one of those milky-warm, golden days
of early October that are among the best in England.

Jeremy thought of the weather, however, technically.  It would be a
dry day with little wind, and that suited him.

It should not be a difficult game.  Raddan was a school only half
the size of Crale, and Raddan's First always played Crale's Second.
Crale had lost last year and Jeremy remembered the game very
vividly.  It had been his first game in the Second and he had
received a nasty kick in the thigh, which had hampered him for
weeks afterwards.

His spirits were not raised at all when he heard that Bunt was
going over to Raddan with them.  Bunt was all right, but he thought
he knew more about the game than he did (Rugby football had changed
since his day, and he had not kept pace with the changes), and then
he always wanted the boys of his own House in the team.

If Jeremy played well Bunt would be honest enough to applaud him
(and, indeed, his enthusiasms were frequently absurd), but let
Jeremy play badly and no one would hear the last of it.  One game
was enough for Bunt, and let him make up his mind, he was as
obstinate as a mule about changing it.

Then Bunt was a roaring, noisy kind of fellow like a bull in face,
figure and temper.  He had a hearty way with him, when he was in
good spirits, of clapping you on the back, hitting you in the
stomach and roaring with merriment.  A man of little dignity.

Twelve o'clock struck and it was time to be off--a short drive to
Crale station, half an hour in the train, and then another half-
hour in the wagonette to Raddan.

Jeremy surveyed the rest of the team and didn't think much of them.
The three-quarters especially were weak.  What was the use, even
though Steevens and himself played like angels, if the three-
quarters didn't know what to do with the ball when they got it?  A
forward, Merriman, was captain, a big bullock of a boy in Bunt's
House, a decent chap with a baseless optimism founded on perfect
health.  There would be no very intelligent commanding from his
direction.

Then, when they climbed into the school wagonette and started down
the hill to the station, Jeremy's spirits rose.  After all, it was
a wonderful day, the sea was singing like a happy baby and little
clouds like feathers fluttered "good-luck" above their heads.
Going away for a match was always a kind of holiday.  One suddenly
saw things in proper proportion, and worries like the row with
Staire and Paddy Leeson's patronage and Parlow's eccentricities
dwindled into their proper size.  Bunt, who swelled in his place
like an image of prosperous British agriculture (he was got up in a
wonderful red-brown tweed.  Why will fat men always wear such gay
colours?), was in the finest spirits, and everyone laughed at his
jokes and said eagerly, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," and thought him
the most awful fool.

Then there was the little Crale station, like a deserted packing-
case left by someone in the middle of the sloping hill, and beyond
it the sea, encircled by the gorse-flaming moor, purple as Homer's
warriors loved it to be.  Then you might look back up the hill and
see Crale piled high, pearl-grey, nobly commanding the world.  You
had, in spite of yourself, a thrill of pride that you belonged to
it.  Inside you were lost in the bowels of it and too deeply
occupied to have time for pride about anything, but standing
outside it, and yet being of it, you were allowed your haughty
satisfaction.

Then crowding into the train, boy on the top of boy, shouting heads
out of window, the train starting, the wind rushing past, the trees
bending their heads, the colours of the fields and the gardens
running up into shapes and patterns--yes, this was life, and life
at its best and finest.

Bunt was in one compartment and Merriman in the other.  Jeremy was
with Bunt.

Bunt was one of those men who, after many years of schoolmastery,
have yet never learned to be finally sure of their authority.  It
is always difficult for a man who cares for popularity to take
risks, and without taking risks no one has ever yet been a true
commander of boys.  Bunt was not a true commander of anything
because he adored to be liked, had created for himself a portrait
of himself, genial, wise, far-seeing, generous and strong, and
whenever this portrait was threatened he quailed, because the
destruction of it meant death to his peace of mind.

There is nothing that boys detect more sharply in their elders than
complacency, and nothing that they punish more mercilessly.  They
did not always punish Bunt; there were times when his rubicund,
stout personality fitted the occasion, when his geniality was
exactly what was required.  Then boys, always acutely aware of the
fitness of things, liked him and approved of him.  But he must be
backed by scholastic paraphernalia--stripped of them he was too
obviously an ordinary weak and noisily-nervous individual.

So now, trying to be authoritative, he failed.  As with all masters
who are not certain of their authority he fastened on the weakest
boy for his target, the target that the other boys would join with
him in shooting at.

But to-day they did not join.  They were banded, as one man,
against him.  A boy, Colborne, full-back for the School Second, a
grave solemn boy with a grand and ceremonious sense of humour,
asked him questions of great absurdity with an anxious and friendly
manner.  Bunt knew that the questions were absurd, but did not know
how to escape without either loss of temper or of dignity.

"Have you been in Switzerland, sir?"

"Yes, Colborne, yes.  Why not?"

"And what is the highest mountain you have ever climbed, sir?"

"Ah, well--let me see.  I can hardly claim any very great height."

"Never mind, sir, a little one will do."

"Well, let me see, let me see.  I really rather forget--"

"Oh, sir, DO remember.  DO tell us--"

The whole carriage was intensely eager, leaning forward, serious
faces, seriously waiting. . . .

Nobody enjoyed the occasion more deeply than did Jeremy.  Nothing
he loved better than ragging anybody or anything.

"I suppose you didn't go up in a railway, sir?" he asked with
intense and eager interest.

Now this was cheek and Bunt knew it.  But he smiled and tried to
make a joke, and failed.  Everyone laughed too heartily, as he also
realized.  He turned the subject, told an anecdote about a visit to
India, a bathe in tropical waters and an approaching shark, and, at
the end of it, Colborne remarked:

"I knew an old lady once, sir, who kept a shark as a pet," and
began then a long and romantic story.  At this, as everyone knew,
he was a master, being able to work into his narrative a sequence
of topical and even personal allusions which Bunt recognized but
did not dare to drag into the open lest there should follow flat
rebellion.

A miserable half-hour Bunt passed in that carriage, and yet that
evening he would be describing to Mrs. Bunt, "A delightful day, my
dear.  In the train? . . .  Oh? yes, behaved like angels.  They
always do with me.  We understand one another."

They understood Bunt so well that on arrival at Scolar-Morton, the
station for Raddan, everyone was in the highest spirits.  Only over
Jeremy a little cold shiver crept once again as they climbed into
the Raddan wagonette.  All right for the others, but for himself,
yes, this game was of terrible importance.  Bunt might be a fool,
but he was able, all the same, to carry sufficiently authentic news
back to Crale.  He wouldn't love Jeremy any the better for that
gentle jesting in the train.  And--there was no mistake about it--
he did not feel in his true playing-form.  It was always so at the
beginning of a season.  He hadn't had practice-games enough.  It
would be a week or two yet before he was in proper shape.


3


Raddan received them in a spirit of great excitement.  This was one
of the most important games of the year for them.  It was true that
it was only Crale's second team, but Crale was a school of so far
greater an importance that Raddan's pride was not offended.  After
all there would be more than one boy in the Crale Second who,
before the season was over, would be tried for the First.  The
Raddan boys were both younger and smaller.  Such a boy as Merriman
was a giant to the youngsters of Raddan.  The whole school would be
there in force to cheer their heroes onwards--and last year they
had won eleven points to five.  This year they should win by more
than that.

The Crale team were received with first-class honours.  The Raddan
head master, Neilson, greeted them in his drawing-room, and Mrs.
Neilson shook them all by the hand.  They were taken round the
school, shown the Chapel, the Library and the Gymnasium, and small
boys stood, as they passed, and stared and made reverent comments.

Then at luncheon they all sat at the High Table (stared at
throughout the meal by the school seated below them), were tempted
to eat more than was good for them (a plot this, they were
persuaded, to spoil their game), and were forced to talk in a
false-polite society murmur.

Greatly relieved were all of them when this was over and they were
taken by school prefects into studies where they swapped anecdotes,
masters' characters, and holiday experiences.

In spite of all this hospitality the Crale team were never entirely
off their guard, but behaved rather as a tribe of Indians
entertained by a hostile tribe to discuss terms of peace.

Jeremy, in special, was reserved, dignified and taciturn.  As the
great moment approached he found himself becoming ever more
nervous.  He did not remember that he had ever been so nervous
before a game.  He looked again and again at the chilly and
imperturbable Steevens.  How was that going to turn out?  Suppose
that Steevens played gloriously but that he, himself, let him down?
Then would he be more than ever disgraced. . . .  Oh, what was he
bothering about?  Why SHOULD he play badly?  And yet there were
days, as he so very well knew, when simply NOTHING went right, when
he could not hold the ball, when the opposing scrum-half was always
there first, when the oncoming forwards seemed so fierce and
gigantic that to go down to their rushes was nothing less than
suicide.

Yes, the prospects were poor. . . .  He went to change as though he
were going to his execution.

Bunt, who had eaten and drunken splendidly at luncheon, came along
to cheer them all up.

"Now, then, you fellows--how do you feel, fit?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's good!  Remember what I've told you.  Don't let the ball out
in your own Twenty-Five.  Keep the ball moving.  Use your feet.
Use your feet."

"Yes, sir."

He came upon Jeremy, who was struggling into his football-boots.

"Ah, Cole!  Don't try too much on your own.  Your job's to get the
ball quickly off the ground and out to Steevens.  You're a bit too
fond of trying to cut through.  No use being too clever, you know.
Over-reach yourself."

Jeremy, who was bent double and purple in the face over his boot-
tying, answered nothing.

Bunt, who always talked on until he encountered a reply either
propitiatory or complimentary (silences made him uncomfortable),
continued:

"I don't know what they're playing you and Steevens together for,
myself.  I was against it.  However, in a match like this it
doesn't matter much.  Do your best, though.  Do your best.  Play
for the School and not for yourself."

He looked up and waited and Jeremy said:

"Yes, sir!"

Bunt passed on.  Silly old fool, thought Jeremy.  That's a nice
sort of way to cheer a fellow up just before a game.  He walked to
the field sulky and silent.  He was aware of mysterious pains in
his body, his boots did not fit, his head pained, he had a tickle
in his nose.  As he ran on to the ground with the others he was a
rebel, a traitor, anything disgraceful and lonely.  He hadn't a
friend in the world.

Although the Crale team received a fine uproar of welcome, it was
nothing to the shout that greeted the Raddan heroes.  The whole
school was there behind the ropes, from the oldest to the youngest.
Some of them were very young indeed, piping and shrill-voiced,
dancing like little wild animals behind the bars.

Bunt was a touch judge and very important and highly coloured.  One
of the Raddan masters, a young, serious-looking man like a baby
camel, was referee.

The whistle was blown and the game was started.  A roar of "S-c-h-
o-o-l," like the shriek of the wind, fluttered the air.  A moment
later a scrum was formed in mid-field.  It was Jeremy's ball and he
was shouting, "Left, Crale.  Coming in left, Crale."

But he wasn't happy.  Sometimes from the first blow of the whistle
a kind of rhythmic content came and suffused him; everything was
going to be perfect time and harmony, like a piece of beautiful
music.  It was not so to-day.  He was conscious of everything, the
long, level field, a hill shaped like a monkey beyond it, a cold
piercing wind that had risen and now came dancing across the level
as though especially to annoy him.

He knew too that it was a bad sign that he should be so
unpleasantly aware of the Raddan scrum-half.  There were many
different ways of being aware of the opposing half and Jeremy knew
them all.  You could look at him and like him, think him a jolly
fellow, want to get the better of him but have tea with him
afterwards.  Or you could hate him at sight and with a cold, steady
enmity determine that he should be defeated.  Or he could be a
nonentity and not worth your consideration.  Or he could be so fine
a player and so completely on his game that you knew that it would
take, as old Harry Vaughan used to say, "every grit at its
grittiest" to get anything out of him.  Or in the first instant you
could discover that he was so bad a player and knew so little of
the game that you would be able to experiment (Jeremy's greatest
asset AND greatest danger) to your soul's content.

All these were right ways to think of your opponent--the only wrong
one was to funk him without faith or reason, and that was Jeremy's
way to-day.

The Raddan scrum-half was a thick, strong boy with red hair and
freckles.  He had a very good idea of the game indeed.  This was,
of course, the days before the agile wing-forward made the life of
the halves a devastating danger and an enterprising glory, but it
mattered terribly how your forwards played in front of you, and it
was very plain.  In the first five minutes the Crale forwards were
neither packing nor heeling successfully.  The Raddan pack got the
ball four times out of five, and when the game had gone ten minutes
the ball was out and away to the Raddan three-quarters, who raced
down the field with it as though there were no opposition at all,
feinted the Crale full-back and sent in the Raddan right-wing for
an easy try which was directly afterwards converted into a very
pretty goal.

Raddan already five points ahead, and oh! the delight behind the
ropes, the shrieks and yells and shouts of triumph!  The bright-red
brick of the school itself seemed to catch a ruddier glow!

Jeremy cursed deep in his heart.  This was a nice beginning, and,
although he had not been to blame, all the team would share in the
disgrace.  Suppose they returned to Crale that evening defeated by
twenty points or more!  He had lost (as he always did when the game
had lasted a minute or two) all sense of his own individual success
or failure.  The thing was a machine now, and he was a part of it;
but it was a rotten machine, creaking in every limb.  No harmony,
no rhythm anywhere.

Now, however, Crale played up a little, the forwards got the ball
and Jeremy had some work to do.  He did it without sting or fire,
but he did realize that Steevens was a marvellous player!  He HAD
been right then in his instinct.  Nothing could alter that now--
Steevens was a PLAYER!

After twenty minutes (the game was half an hour each way) Raddan
scored again, a scrambling try that was not converted.  Eight
points ahead!  It was plain for all the world to see that the Crale
three-quarters were of no use at all, a miserable, spineless lot.
They stood bunched together, or, when they did get the ball, they
passed straight down the field without gaining any ground and then
tamely kicked into touch!  They fumbled, dropped the ball forward,
looked like frightened rabbits.  It was lucky, indeed, that the
Raddan three-quarters were nothing very marvellous.  One really
first-class Raddan three-quarter and--Birds and Little Fishes!--the
score they'd have run up!

So half-time came, and the Crale team sucked lemons in a dejected,
back-biting group.  It was then that Steevens sought Jeremy.

"That was a good save of yours just now."

Jeremy grunted.

"The threes are ROTTEN!"  Steevens spoke with the composure and
indifference of a philosophic Brahmin.

"They are," said Jeremy disgustedly.

"Their threes are rotten, too," Steevens went on quietly.  "No good
at all."

"Yes," agreed Jeremy.

"We'd better do a bit on our own.  Play our own game.  It's no use
passing to the threes all the time, when they can't do anything."

"No," said Jeremy.

And, after the first moment of the second half, he was aware of the
difference!  The player of Rugby football must, more completely,
perhaps, than the player of any other game, fight for the team and
not for himself, which is one reason among many another why Rugby
football is the finest game in the world; but there always comes a
time when the wise player, detecting his team's weakness and
strength, must centre all his efforts towards a certain part of the
field--and it may be, if the struggle chances for that day to lie
in his own quarters, he must concentrate on THAT!

It was so to-day.  Fortunately the Crale forwards, stung by Bunt's
angry indignation, were playing now with some effect and were
getting the ball with frequency.

Instantly through Jeremy's young body there passed the sacred glow!
His thought now was only for Steevens and Steevens's only for him!
He was playing with a ferocious cool-headedness that was the mark
of his game at its best.  He was on to the ball like a dog on a
rabbit; his hands were sure and safe, his passes swift as lightning
and hard and true.  He felt no pains in his body; he was not
conscious of his body at all.  He was down to every rush, had the
ball up from the very feet of the Raddan forwards, and, over all,
had the glorious knowledge that Steevens was always with him,
knowing what he would do before he was himself aware of it.

The complexion of the game was changed.  The forwards had been
instructed at half-time that, as the three-quarters were so weak,
they were to run the ball themselves, and run it they did.

There came a glorious moment when Jeremy had the ball like an arrow
to Steevens and Steevens, swerving, feinting, was through the
Raddan forwards and (they were in the Raddan twenty-five) himself
was over the line.

He kicked the goal.  Five points to eight.

After that Jeremy and Steevens had it all their own way.  They did
what they liked.  Steevens was for the first time on Crale's behalf
the inspired genius that Crale afterwards was so magnificently to
recognize.

Even the Crale three-quarters, during the final ten minutes of the
game, woke up and achieved a run or two.  At the blow of the
whistle Crale were victors by eighteen points to eight.


4


The Raddan men were sportsmen.  They were disappointed but
chivalrous, and they had seen some great half-back play which they
would not easily forget.

Bunt, orating his own men as they changed, bathed blissfully in the
waters of his own enthusiasm.

Steevens was a revelation to him--yes, a revelation.  In all his
years at Crale he could not remember a better stand-off half.  And
Jeremy came in for his share:  "You're a pair!  Wonderful
combination!  You played like a young tiger, that last quarter of
an hour, Cole.  Yes, upon my soul--never seen anything better."
Bunt was at his best now, genuine, self-forgetting, fired with the
ardour and rigour of the game.

Yes, that was a good hour.  The shower, the change, tea in the
School Hall with speeches and cheers and great enthusiasm, and
behind it all, the knowledge that the thing had come off, that a
combination had been formed that might lead to great deeds, and
that his chances for the First were now rich and royal!

But none of this approached the luxurious memory of that last half-
hour of play.  THERE was the purpose and aim of life!  That perfect
co-ordination of thought and effort, that current of vigour that
swept you forward beyond your own weak volition.  Not that he
thought of it like this.  He only knew that it had been a perfect
half-hour, never to be lost or forgotten.

Steevens, of course, was the hero of the day, but that was
pleasant, too, because Steevens took it all so decently with such
quiet indifference, listening to Bunt patiently but with no
elation, drinking his tea, saying but little.

Only once to Jeremy, "Good work, if they go on playing us
together."

To which Jeremy answered:

"Rather!"

And then climbing into the wagonette again.  It was dark, dark with
a tumbling silver shadow of stars.  The air was cold like a
friendly slap in the face, sharp and lovely about your head as the
wagonette moved off through the trees and started down the hill.

Oh, yes, Jeremy was happy indeed, and squashed between Bunt and
Merriman they clattered through the stars.  He'd like Uncle Samuel
to know that he'd played well.  He'd like to have the ball in his
hands at this minute, to feel himself snatch it from whirling
boots, to feel the rigour of the straight hard sting, to see
Steevens catch it with that marvellous precision, one movement of
arms and body and legs, the knowing instinctively what to do. . . .
Oh, he was a player, that chap Steevens. . . .  Jeremy licked his
lips over him.  Bunt was rambling on over any old thing.  How black
the hedges as they ran to meet you, smelling of leaves and rain,
how faint the light upon the road, how bright the air against your
cheek!  How squeezed, too, his body, aching a bit from sundry blows
and kicks, between that ass Bunt and Podgy Merriman.  He sniffed
with his nose like a little dog.

Then someone began to sing:


   Mr. John he was a gentleman,
     A gentleman, a gentleman;
   Mr. John he was a gentleman,
     And so say all of us!

   He hunted in the morning
   When all the cocks were crowing,
   He found the Fox at evening,
   So wise he was and KNOWING.
   Mr. John he was a gentleman,
     And so say all of us!

   So fat he was and cheery,
   So red of face and BEERY,
   A gentleman at sight!
   We hope he'll live for ever,
   And meet disaster never,
     And so say all of us!

       (And now together!)

  Mr. John he was a gentleman,
     A gentleman, a gentleman;
   Mr. John he was a gentleman,
     And so say all of us!


Jeremy, singing with full throat, marking the time, all
unwittingly, on Bunt's stout thigh, thus saluted his perfect hour!



CHAPTER VII

THE WAR OF THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS (II)

THE FEAST


1


The term was now well on its way and Jeremy's life was rich and
varied.  A small boy at a public school may be said never to think,
it being the deliberate purpose of his elders and betters to keep
him out of mischief by drugging his brain with physical occupation.
But Jeremy was not entirely the ordinary small boy; there was
something in him, deep down, lying like a fish at the sandy bottom
of a deep pool, and this fish, ever and anon, flapped its tail,
opened its mouth to swallow an insect, and in one way and another
showed activity.

Moreover, do what he would, he had a questioning mind.  He would
have preferred to be lazy, to be occupied only by his body, but
other things, more uncertain and undefined things, would keep
breaking in.

Certain things were, however, definite.  One was that the match
against Raddan had done him fine profit.  In fact, the danger now
was that enthusiasm would go too far.  People would expect great
brilliance, and--after all, the Raddan team had not been difficult
to beat.  In any case, Cole and Steevens were down as the first
halves for the next School Match--a game against a local football
club.

Oddly, in this matter, Jeremy's chief desire was to know whether
that fellow Ridley was aware of his success.  Here he stayed for no
self-analysis.  He did not ask himself why this boy, to whom he had
never spoken, about whom he knew nothing, was more important to him
than any other boy in the school.  He saw him every morning at
Chapel and that was the only time in the day when he did see him.
Ridley sat with the Sixth in the far section near the choir, and
Jeremy could see him quite clearly from his own place in the middle
of the building.

His further inspection of him confirmed all his first hero-worship,
but he could not have told you why.  It was partly, perhaps,
Ridley's reserve and dignity.  He "walked by himself," but he never
seemed lonely or conceited.  He was austere, but not superior.  He
had assuredly all the virtues that Jeremy himself had not.
Although he was slim and pale, he seemed strong and athletic, but
Jeremy felt a little ashamed of his own enthusiasm for games when
he looked at him.  Ridley had plainly matters of far greater
importance to consider.

Nevertheless, it did not appear that he would patronize you if you
spoke to him.

As he walked up Chapel with the rest of the Sixth, after the
remainder of the school were seated, he seemed to Jeremy to have
more friendly dignity than any other boy there.  He looked "an
awfully decent chap," and that was the whole of it.

Jeremy had already set him up in his mind as a judge of right
conduct.  What would Ridley think of this?  What would Ridley think
of that?  And, strange though it may sound, it was nevertheless
true that this boy, to whom he had never yet spoken, was
influencing him more strongly in the queer transition stage through
which he was now passing from child to adolescent than any other--
save possibly Uncle Samuel--in all the world.

Another business of disturbing importance was the quarrel with
Staire.  What a foolish and tiresome matter this had become; and
because it was foolish and tiresome, his dislike of Staire was,
against his own wishes, aggravated.  He did not want to dislike
anyone--always for him a waste of time and temper; but he "wasn't
going to stand" Staire's irritations, and if Staire wanted a row he
should have one.

It was obvious enough that Staire wanted one, or if not himself, at
least his followers.  Moreover, this new football success of young
Cole's did not exactly delight Staire's heart.  It was difficult
for any boy as proud and as determined on leadership as was Staire
to pass from the prominence of the cricket team to the insignificance
of the football one.  He hated it that he did not play football well,
he who would lead at everything.

He felt himself so superior to Stocky Cole that he could scarcely
be said to dislike him, but it was intensely aggravating that
everyone else did not also feel his superiority as a natural and
obvious thing.  But he was not at present, at least, as actively
concerned in the feud as were his immediate followers, Crumb,
Baldock and the others; and Baldock and the rest he despised quite
as thoroughly as he did Cole.

Meanwhile, underground the tide swelled.  Every sort of tiny
grudge, accident, joke, was drawn into the main current.  And the
small boys buzzed like flies.

However fervently Jeremy might wish to keep out of it, he could
not.  Word came to him that Baldock and Crumb were carrying on a
fine bullying campaign among the infants.  That was not his
business, that was the affair of the house-prefects; nevertheless,
the good work was being carried on both in his name and Staire's,
and the day might come when he himself would be held responsible--
and, indeed, that day WAS to come. . . .

Altogether, unknown to himself, his dislike of Staire was every day
increasing.  He began to want "to have it out with him."  They
never spoke to one another now and it roused all his combative
obstinacy when Staire passed him, head in air, scornful, mocking,
murmuring to a chosen friend some sarcastic joke.  Oddly, too,
Jeremy felt himself, when Staire was there, to be something of that
country clod-hopper that Staire claimed him to be.  Yes, he'd like
to bash the fellow's face in!  He would, some day.


2


More profitable than this irritating feud was his increasing
friendship with Parlow.  He was ashamed, in a way, to take
advantage of Parlow's preference; it seemed a sneaky kind of thing
to be let off when you ought to be punished, and, without being in
the least priggish about it, he hated that Parlow should be unfair,
simply because he was beginning to like Parlow so much.

After the game at Raddan he came right to the front in Parlow's
favour.  Parlow was always proud of his form and it pleased him
greatly when any member of it won distinction.

But Jeremy was also exactly the kind of boy that he liked, the kind
of boy that he understood.  He saw very quickly that young Cole had
an instinctive care for beautiful things; that although he was
clumsy in self-expression, shy of emotion, sensitive to "being
different," afraid above all of any "soppiness" or sentimentality,
his nature was the artist's, whether for good or ill.

One afternoon he read to his class part of Arnold's "Balder Dead,"
the description of the funeral ship standing out to sea, the lines
that begin with:


     But when the gods and Heroes heard, they brought
     The wood to Balder's ship, and built a pile,
     Full the deck's breadth, and lofty: then the Corpse
     Of Balder on the highest top they laid. . . .


He was himself carried away by the splendid lines, and read on,
forgetting the boys, lost in his own dreams, living his own secret
life.  Looking up at last he saw Jeremy, his mouth open, staring
into that other world where his own steps were at that moment
treading.  And in that instant he knew one of the joys that lighten
once and again the schoolmaster's pilgrimage.  It was characteristic
of him that five minutes later he should be raging at Standing, his
body trembling with passion and that wretched boy shaking in front
of him.

No boy in the form grudged Jeremy his luck.  Parlow was certain to
have his favourites, and it was better that it should be young
Cole, who played football decently, than some rotter who didn't
know one end of a game from another.  So was character estimated in
the Middle Fourth!


3


The match against the local team took place and the school won with
ease.  Steevens played brilliantly and was the hero of the
occasion; Jeremy did nothing especial and made one rather bad
blunder.  Steevens was safe for his colours, and his rise had been
as spectacular as anyone remembered; Jeremy was not only not safe
but in the match against Ulverstone, for the succeeding week,
someone else was chosen instead of him.

The only pleasant thing that came out of this was Steevens's
indignation.  "They don't know a blessed thing about it," he said
to Jeremy.  "You and I are made for one another, and you know it as
well as I; but how are we ever going to settle down unless they
play us together a bit?  We will make the best school halves in the
kingdom in a season.  It's dead certain.  Meanwhile, just because
you hadn't a chance of showing off the other day they spoil the
whole thing.  I can't say anything yet, I'm too new.  But you
wait."

This was a long speech for Steevens and very agreeable.  It was
delivered quite impersonally.  Jeremy might have been a useful
piece of garden produce for any human quality he had for Steevens,
but it was all the more sincere and honest for that.

Steevens might not have charm, but most certainly he was honest.
He never took the trouble to be otherwise.  But this dropping from
the team made Jeremy rather reckless.  He was not so foolish as to
cherish the grudge of the neglected genius, but, supported by
Steevens's opinion, he did feel that he had been too hastily
dropped, and his wilder Robin Hood personality (so far, kept under
this term) poked up its green-bonneted head.

And as Providence is for ever on the watch for the critical moment,
so now it happened that there arrived a letter from Uncle Percy and
in the letter, marvel of all marvels, was a cheque for five pounds!

Now the story of Jeremy and his Uncle Percy has been told in
another place.  It is enough to say here that Uncle Percy was a
Colonial uncle, that he had, in Jeremy's life-time, paid only one
visit to his fond relatives in Polchester, and after that visit (a
very memorable one) he had returned to his Colonies.  Jeremy had
not cared for this uncle and had, in consequence of certain
unfortunate circumstances, made this plain.  He had even refused a
tip.  This refusal had, it seemed, rankled in Uncle Percy's heart
and, although it was long ago, this letter and this beneficent
present were a peace-offering.

It had all been so long ago, indeed, that Jeremy knew nothing but
kind feelings towards his poor uncle; moreover, he had, by this
time, learnt more efficiently the value of money.

This was indeed a wonderful present, and yet not quite so wonderful
as it looked, because the cheque must be taken to Paddy Leeson and
four out of the five pounds would be confiscated and added, in
minute sums, to the weekly pocket-money.  But one pound remained--
one pound with which Jeremy might do exactly what he pleased.

His natural tendency was always to give away everything that he
possessed.  He had, in fact, almost a mania in that direction.
This was no virtue in him but part of his own tendency to be most
happy when those around him were jolly.  Moreover, possessions
checked his sense of freedom.  All his life it was to be so.

There was, therefore, one obvious thing to be done with this pound--
namely, to have a Feast.

The Feasts in those disorderly days at Crale were functions of a
great ceremony and an abiding splendour.  I fear that in these
regenerate times of superior education they have been put down.  I
can only say that I am extremely sorry.  They were, in the first
place, historic and went back without break for many hundreds of
years.  In the second place, they fostered the generous instincts
in a boy's soul.  In the third place, although they were, of
course, against authority, they were also in a kind of way
acknowledged and admitted, and so provided a very pretty picture of
English public-school traditional morality.

They were dormitory Feasts, and they were against authority in that
if they were, by bad chance, publicly discovered, they were
publicly punished.  They were acknowledged and admitted in that the
giver of the Feast always asked of the Dormitory Prefect permission
and sanction, which, if there had not been in that particular
dormitory for some long period a Feast, was always granted.  Then,
on the night in question, the Dormitory Prefect, secure in his
cubicle, hid his ears under the bedclothes and so slept the sleep
of the just and humanitarian philosopher.

Now Jeremy's dormitory had not held a Feast for a very long time,
those who were wealthy enough not being generous enough and those
who were generous enough being, alas, not wealthy enough.

During any other time Jeremy would not have hesitated for a single
instant, but now, at this so important moment in his career, he
hesitated.  About every Feast there was always the glorious
possibility of a row.  Did not that possibility add salt of the
finest to the savour of the Feast?  On this particular night Paddy
Leeson might take it into his inquiring mind to make his particular
discovery.  One could never tell how that queer thing, a master's
brain, would work.

Any public scandal just now and Jeremy was a ruined man.  He
realized this quite clearly.  He discussed the question with Jumbo
and, in discussing it, discovered to his surprise that all was not
well between Jumbo and himself.

His friendship with Jumbo had pursued always the smoothest courses;
that had been one of its most pertinent charms.  Jumbo had never
known, apparently, what personal claims, personal hurts, personal
grievances meant.  He had ever followed when Jeremy's stronger
determination led him.

But now, quite suddenly, there was a difference.

Jeremy had begun, as they walked about Coulter's, by explaining his
difficulties.  Like many a dominating friend, he had spoken as
though there were but one interesting topic in the world and that
the one in which his companion must be absorbed as was he himself.
Then he realized that Jumbo's excitement over the Feast question
was very slight indeed.  Of course Jumbo was not in his dormitory,
but surely he could not be so selfish. . . .

"What's up?" he asked.

"Nothing.  Why?" asked Jumbo, kicking the gravel.

"You're sick about something."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are."

"I'm not sick"--Jumbo raised his odd moonface countenance and
plunged on clumsily into the so rarely visited jungle of his
feelings; "it's only that you're changed, Stocky.  It's this term.
Since you've had a study and played for the First. . . .  Oh,
you're all right.  It would be natural for you to be swanky, but
you're not, at least not more than anybody would be. . . .  But you
don't want me as you did.  You don't want me to share in
everything; you're getting more important and I'm not.  And, what's
more, I never will be.  I'm not the sort of fellow who will ever be
important in anything.  We don't think the same way about things.
Last term you'd have been keen as anything on the rag with Staire.
Now you seem to want to get out of it.  I'm not the sort of friend
you want any more, and I'd rather not be with you at all than know
all the time I'm not wanted."

Jumbo breathed deeply.  This was a tremendous effort for him.  He
had never in all his life before, perhaps, made such an effort.

Jeremy was ashamed and confused.  He put his arm round Jumbo's neck
and protested most earnestly.  But in his heart he knew that what
Jumbo said was true.  It had not occurred to him until now, but--
yes, it was true.  A number of things, Paddy's talk with him;
Parlow's interest in him; this row with Staire, in which he found
no fun, but only irritation; and, above all, his thoughts about
Ridley, these things had, without his knowing it, carried him
forward.  There was something static about Jumbo; he was faithful
and true, but he was also closed to all development and would
always be.

Jeremy was face to face for the first time with that tangled
question of loyalty in friendship--loyalty which, because of old
times, must be supported, but loyalty, too, in something from which
the heart is gone.

Jumbo was apparently reassured, but as he went off down the field
Jeremy felt an uneasy and self-critical discomfort.  Everything was
changing, and not by his own wish; and yet, in the change, there
was excitement, too.


4


And so, to prove to himself, if to nobody else, that he was the
same Jeremy who loved rags and rows and rebellions, he decided on
the Feast.

He appointed a Committee of Supplies, too, in addition to himself.

The broad division of expenditure was as follows:


   Potted Meat: 5/-
   Sardines: 5/-
   Doughnuts, etc.: 3/-
   Chocolates, etc.: 3/-
   Marmalade (Large Pot): 3/6
   Biscuits: 3/-
   Sausage-Rolls: 2/-

   TOTAL: £1.4.6


Now the dormitory contained twelve boys, but of these the two new
boys were appointed scouts.  They did not share in the Feast, but
were awarded sweets and biscuits if they did well.  Of the
remaining ten, two were in the Infirmary with colds and that left
eight, and of these eight one, Scholdz, a Jew, was "barred" and
would not be invited.  Scholdz was "barred" not so much because he
was a Jew as that he was a worm, a sneak, a dirty skunk, a "scat";
and he was all these things because in his first term he had gone
to Leeson and complained of the bullying.  Better for him, as he
now very thoroughly knew, had he suffered himself to be crucified
in stern silence.  And now a year of scorn and ostracism had
reduced his soul to a fine state of crawling and subsequent
sycophancy.

There were, then, only seven for the Feast--the prospects were
good.

The next step was to approach Malleson, the Dormitory Prefect.
Malleson, who was a thin, lazy, dreamy boy, with a soul sunk in
chemistry, was not a difficult subject.

Jeremy met him coming up from Chapel.  "I say, Malleson--"

"Yes?"

"We want to have a Feast on Saturday night.  Can we?"

"No, you can't!"

"Oh, I say--"

"What were you saying?"

Jeremy began patiently again:

"We want to have a Feast on Saturday night.  Can we?"

"Oh, a Feast. . . ."  Malleson stopped, gazing dreamily across the
fields.  "What do you want a Feast for?"

"My uncle sent me some money.  We haven't had one for ever so
long."

"Haven't you? . . .  Oh, well, I suppose, if you want to make pigs
of yourselves."

That was enough.  Rumbling out, "Oh, thanks awfully," Jeremy ran
off.  It was risky with a chap like Malleson.  He would be sure to
forget and suddenly appear in the middle of it and ask what all the
row was about.  No matter, Jeremy would remind him again.

Each member of the Committee would buy a third of the provisions,
that no suspicions might be aroused in the minds of the
authorities.  They were not purchased until the afternoon of the
day.

One detail remained.  It was the tradition that at the Feast there
should be a Story-Teller who, as in the palaces of Arabian
potentates, should narrate thrilling events while the sardines,
marmalade and sausage-rolls were enthusiastically enjoyed.  The
Story-Teller's job was no light one, because he was compelled to be
thrilling in a whisper.  Compelled also to continue until everyone
present was satiated.  Often a new boy was chosen for this, but new
boys--shivering with cold and nervous fears--were poor Story-
Tellers.  Jeremy had a brilliant notion.  He would see whether
Marlowe, who, being a writer of romances must, ipso facto, be also
a narrator of them, would not honour them.

It was a delicate matter, because Marlowe belonged to another
dormitory, and any boy caught out of his own dormitory was punished
terribly.  But Marlowe's author's vanity was, as Jeremy knew, his
weakness.  Jeremy approached him with great tact.  He spoke of
Marlowe's genius, the necessity that it should be more widely known
and the especial quality of the sardines and the doughnuts.

Marlowe, who was greedy as well as vain, succumbed.

They went to bed on Saturday night, their night-shirts over their
shirts and trousers.  Long after Malleson (who had been properly
reminded by Jeremy) had gone his rounds and all the House were
sleeping, Marlowe, a shivering figure, appeared like a ghost at
Jeremy's bed.  Without a word, without a sound, the seven uprose.
The Dormouse and the other new boy were dispatched by signs to the
door to be on guard and then--happiness beyond happiness--on
Jeremy's bed were spread the already open tins of glistening, oily
sardines snuggled close together, waiting their willing sacrifice;
the great, white pot of amber-coloured, smooth-faced marmalade; the
sausage-rolls, so coyly hiding their fragments of fragrance-bearing
sausage; the biscuits on a plate, the ones with pink sugar a-top;
the doughnuts, so soft and yielding to the touch, so amiable in
shape, so deceptive in content; and, last and worthiest of all,
the thick bars of chocolate-cream, the slabs of resisting Devona,
the luxurious, crunching, slippery solidity of the immortal
bull's-eye. . . .

The seven huddled round the bed, their noses twitching, their eyes
glistening, their young stomachs crying aloud.  Delicious the
secrecy, the silence, the thud and rhythm of the sea, the snores of
Malleson, the smell of the pastry, the anxiety and conspirator-
brotherhood, and defiance of authority.

Only Jeremy was uneasy.  He was aware that in the bed almost
opposite young Scholdz was huddled, his bright black eyes closed,
pretending, in fine superiority, to be sleeping, but in actual fact
conscious of every sound, bitterly unhappy because of his
ostracism, his isolation--and his hunger.

He did not want to think of Scholdz.  Why should he?  Levi meant
nothing to him.  But, no--he could not conquer his uneasiness.  He
slipped off the bed and, on naked feet, crossed the floor.  He
shook Scholdz's shoulder.

"You can come if you like," he said.  Scholdz, without a word, his
little black head gleaming in the moonlight, was out of bed and had
joined the others.  They did not care.  It was Stocky's Feast.
They made way for Scholdz and he was handed half a sardine on a
Petit-Beurre biscuit.

Then, in a trembling, sinister whisper, Marlowe began:

"Once upon a time, in the time of Charles I, a lonely horseman
could be seen spurring across the plain on a dark and stormy night,
when the wind was fearful and he could not see a step of the way,
but trusted to his good horse. . . ."


5


The Dormouse was achieving that ambition granted to Napoleon,
Nelson and one or two more heroes--he was sleeping standing.  He
was so bitterly chilly that in his dream he climbed an insurmountable
iceberg upon whose slippery sides he rose and fell.  He was always
so weary now that if left alone for a moment, he fell asleep at
once, thereby justifying completely his nickname.

The other boy on guard had turned away from watching the passage,
as was his true and proper duty, and was gazing hungrily in the
direction of the feasters, straining his ears for the story-
teller's whispered tale, wondering whether there would be any cakes
and ale for himself before the night was over.  Poor, besotted
guards!  They did not see the white, ghostly figures stealing up
the passage, did not hear the thin patter of the naked feet, knew
nothing until they were caught from behind and hands were over
their mouths.

The Dormouse sharply waking, realizing that the enemy were upon
him, struggled fiercely.  He had fallen asleep at his post and
betrayed Cole's trust.  This was the first thing that Cole had
asked him to do for him, and he had failed.  His pride had been
immense when Jeremy had explained what he must do; he had had no
thought of the Feast or of possible biscuits; this was the
fulfilling of the desire of his heart, that Cole should ask some
duty from him--and now he had failed!

His struggles were vain.  One raider held him back against the
wall, another pressed his hand over his mouth.  The treatment was
rough.

Marlowe had reached the first crisis of his narrative--"At that
moment a mounted rider in a black mask barred the road.  'Stand or
I fire,' he challenged"--when he felt himself swung off the bed and
a moment later was grappling with some silent enemy on the floor.

There was taking place on all sides of him warfare as quiet as the
grave.

The raiders--needless to say that it was Staire's party, headed by
Crumb and Baldock--numbered at least a dozen, but Jeremy and his
noble seven fought gloriously and little black-headed Scholdz was
among the noblest.  The Goats were armed each with a pillow, a
hair-brush and a wet sponge.  It may be fancied by the uninitiated
that a pillow-fight involves noise.  That is not so when the
pillows are used as shields rather than weapons of defence.  In one
thing Jeremy and his Sheep held advantage--under their night-shirts
they wore shirts and trousers.  The Goats had their night-shirts
for their only covering.

Jeremy, aided by two friends, had the infinite satisfaction of
muffling Crumb's head in his night-shirt, holding him down on the
bed with his hair in a sardine-tin, and crimsoning his bare behind
with hair-brushes.  This, too, may be done quietly and yet
efficiently by the artist in this kind.

But the attention paid to Crumb meant that there were but few Sheep
left to defend the fort, or rather the Feast, and this, the Feast,
was, of course, the objective of the Goats.

Turning from Crumb, Jeremy saw the sardines, the marmalade, the
biscuits, the chocolates vanishing down the Dormitory.  One
desperate effort and he caught Baldock by the tail of his shirt,
fell upon his neck, and the two came crashing to the ground.  The
noise was as of a thunder-clap on a fair sea.  The Sheep stood
paralysed.  The Goats (and the Feast with them) vanished.  Surely
the whole House must be awake!  But Nature restored her beneficial
sway; the moon shone on, the clamp-clamp of the sea crept in once
again through the open windows, Malleson's friendly snore ran
through the room unchecked.

No sign of a Goat.  No sign of a Feast.  Only a disordered bed and
on the floor the white, mute tail of a night-shirt.

Jeremy was defeated.  This was an insult that nothing short of
blood (and a lot of it) could modify.

A small figure with bent head crept to his bed.  Jeremy caught him
by the shoulder.

"You're a nice guard!" he whispered fiercely.  "Why didn't you cry
'Cave,' you young fool?"

The Dormouse said nothing.  No one said anything.

The moonlight, the sea, the snore, all three aloof, Olympian,
indifferent, held the scene.

And Jeremy's heart was sore.  And the Dormouse's heart was sorer.



CHAPTER VIII

INTERLUDE: IN PARLOW'S ROOMS


1


This raid on the Feast proved deeply humiliating to Jeremy and his
supporters.  He didn't want to have supporters; he didn't want to
have a feud; but, by jove, if Staire and his gang were going to
play dirty tricks like this . . . !

Nor did the Goats make little of their achievement.  They had won a
notable triumph.  The story grew with the telling; the Feast (as
afterwards enjoyed by the Goats) became Gargantuan, young Stocky's
impotence pitiful.  Staire pretended that he was outside it
entirely--that he had known nothing of it--that it had been a game
for "kids," too immature for his notice, and so, once again, raised
himself high over Jeremy's head.

Yes, Jeremy was beginning to hate him very much indeed.

And, as is always the way, one ripple spread to another.  The
ground upon which we tread is subject to strange oscillating
movements, so that at one moment everyone seems to be sliding
towards us, at another away from us.  Jeremy was aware that he was
in danger of a rather curious loneliness.  There was trouble
between himself and Jumbo.  Unlike the infants in M. Gide's "Faux
Monnayeurs," he was not given at all to self-analysis and he did
not sit down and consider what exactly was wrong with Jumbo and
himself.  But their easy moment-by-moment intimacy was broken.
Jumbo had clumsily explained, and Jeremy had known that there was
justice in the explanation; but because that little conversation
had been awkward and embarrassing, both boys were determined that
there should not be another, pretended that things were as they had
been, and so knew the more conclusively that they were not.

Then there was trouble with Gauntlet, and trouble with Marlowe.  It
was very unpleasant to have rows with fellows in your own Study.
Study space was confined; you sat, as it were, on top of one
another and were for ever meeting.  The row with Gauntlet was
especially difficult because Gauntlet was such a diplomat.  You
never knew of what he was thinking.  In that little battle of words
Gauntlet had, in a moment of, for him, extraordinary rashness, said
just what he thought, and he now resented that indiscretion deeply.
Jeremy was certain that he had definitely gone over into Staire's
camp, but he would not say so, and the effect of it was as though
you had a spy in your own household.  If there was one thing that
Jeremy loathed, it was deceit--pretending to be what you were not.
He could not definitely charge Gauntlet with this, because beneath
his politeness and amiability he showed quite clearly his
hostility, but you could not catch him; fish-like he was for ever
slipping from your hand.

He told Staire everything, of course--everything that Jeremy said
and did.  One day Jeremy would have a "scrap" with him.  It seemed
to be the only way of clearing the situation.

And then there was Marlowe.  Marlowe's literary dignity had been
hurt by the unfortunate ending to the Feast.  He seemed to have
taken that invitation very seriously.  It had been the first step
towards public recognition of his genius, and he blamed Jeremy for
its ignominious close.  His face wore always now a grieved
expression, and Jeremy longed to kick him.

Then disorder was gathering daily in the Lower School section of
the House, and in some vague, undecided fashion Jeremy appeared to
be responsible for this.  Baldock and Crumb were governing the
Locker Room with a kind of Spanish Inquisition and making young
Cole's cheek the reason for this.  The House Prefects were not,
this term, a very strong body, and, as was often the case at the
beginning of a new year, were shy at asserting too definitely their
authority.  It would soon come to it that Jeremy himself must
descend into these Infernal Regions and see what he could do about
it, but that would mean a series of ignominious scuffles, the very
things that he wished at this moment to avoid.

Then floated up to him, from time to time, the name of the
Dormouse, as of someone especially persecuted.  He realized the
boy, his white face, frightened eyes, tousled hair, and was vaguely
irritated.  HE wasn't the infant's keeper--the days of Tom Brown
and young Arthur were gone for ever; but he was uncomfortable and
knew that he was.

Although all day he was busy, and merry, and noisy, and in the
midst of companions, yet he was beginning to be lonely and
dissatisfied.  Something was wrong and he did not know quite what
it was.

Then, happy event, there was a letter from Uncle Samuel.  It had
always been one of the world's wonders that Uncle Samuel always
seemed to know when he was wanted, seemed to know, too, just the
way that Jeremy was feeling.  Uncanny!  But Uncle Samuel was a
marvellous man, the most marvellous the world contained.

This was the letter:


I suppose you're all set up about your football.  That's all right
so long as you don't think football the only thing in the world.
Because it isn't: there are also Lobster Mayonnaise, Forain
etchings, a pianoforte Sonata by Brahms in F Minor, pictures by
your uncle, the rocks beyond Sennen, your mother's unselfishness,
your uncle's superiority to snobs, the novels of Stendhal, and a
journey to China if you've got the cash (which I haven't).
However, I don't expect you to realize these things yet.  I would
only urge you to keep a window open and let in plenty of air.
Don't get stuffy over your football.  You won't be able to play it
for ever, you know, and games desert you even more basely than
women.

An old friend's been staying with me here, these last few days, M.
Honoré Balzac.  If your father knew he wouldn't be at all pleased.
He isn't the sort of guest he'd like to have in the house, but
whenever I hear your father coming I get him to hide in the
cupboard (you know--the one with the skeleton), which can't be
pleasant for him because he's very large and fat and anything but
good-natured.  However, he's like all egoists, will submit to
anything for an audience and, although you mightn't think it I'm a
very good one.  He talks ceaselessly and loves piling on the
details.  However, he really has known some remarkable people and
just now he's full of a young man (Christian name Lucien, surname
Rubempré) who went up to Paris from the country with no morals and
great ambitions and thought he was going to turn the world upside
down.

He did, in fact, go a long way, but lost his head, couldn't find it
again and came to a bad end.  I shouldn't like you to do that over
your football.  Balzac doesn't like my pictures any more than you
do, but I don't think he knows much about Art.  Finance is his line
and he's put me up to some mighty fine wheezes in that direction.
But he says that I haven't got a financial brain, in which I'm sure
he's quite correct.  Your letters this term are not so simple as
hitherto they've been.  I suppose that, having for three years
preferred your requests for food and money and, that done, felt
that you'd made everybody happy, you are suddenly aware that there
is more in the world than your all-demanding stomach.  I suppose
having a Study has made you feel important and, feeling important,
you begin to realize the school and its affairs.  Well, that's not
a bad thing.  I hate to belong to any kind of body of people
myself, and so ultimately will you, but it won't do you any harm to
realize for a while that every movement that you make affects
someone else--starts the ripples rolling.  Only don't be self-
conscious about it and think that you matter.  But I don't believe
you will.  I've written this far and stop to consider.  I've no
doubt that what I've just said is quite false.  Take myself.  Here
I've been sponging on your family for the Lord knows how many years
and simply haven't affected them in the tiniest degree.  Not a
little atom.  They all think exactly as they did before I came to
them.  I haven't opened their eyes to one single beautiful thing.
I haven't made your father face life with any more courage, nor
your mother understand a single picture nor one line of real
poetry.  Nor have they altered me.  I haven't acquired one scrap of
your father's fine moral character, his devotion to what he thinks
right, his hatred of what he knows to be wrong.  I don't know what
IS wrong.  I never did.  I know what is fine and courageous and
unselfish, though.  I can't do fine and courageous things, but I
take my hat off to them when I see them.  Nor has your mother made
me a bit more unselfish by the splendour of her noble example.  I
see her thinking of others all day long and think of myself all the
more.

So we don't affect one another after all--or perhaps we only affect
those that are of our own family.  Gauguin--I'll tell you about him
one day--and Marie Lloyd and Hiroshize . . . a nice family ours and
worth leaving a card on.

Here; don't you listen to all this.  Play your football and make
yourself sick with sardines and marmalade.  All the same, keep your
eyes skinned and when you see the clouds like silver dragons gaping
open-mouthed for the red ball of a sun to swallow, when you see a
green wave break on a black rock, when the waters run down a hill
after rain,

               Remember Your Loving

                           OLD UNCLE.


2


The effect of this letter of Uncle Samuel's was immediately
increased by a strange and rather dramatic incident.  After morning
school, as he was leaving the class-room, Jeremy felt a hand on his
shoulder and, turning, saw Parlow towering over him.

"Come in to tea this afternoon," he said.

"Thank you, sir," said Jeremy.  That was what he had wanted and
had, if the truth be told, been rather expecting.  Parlow's teas
were famous, not only because he gave you plenty to eat, but also
because he showed you treasures.  Chaps affected to despise
Parlow's collections, his books and pictures and precious things,
but they spoke of them, nevertheless, and in spite of themselves,
with awe and wonder.  Parlow was the only master in the whole
school who had such things, and even if it were only for the money
they must have cost they were interesting.  Had Parlow not been
himself so hefty a human being, with an outrageous temper and a
lover of games, he would have been despised for caring for
beautiful things; as it was, his freakishness was permitted.

But, beyond this, Jeremy had by now acquired a great admiration for
him and wanted terribly his good esteem.  Apparently he had won it,
more thoroughly indeed than any boy just now in the class, but this
invitation laid the seal upon it and it made him very happy.

Normally, he would have hurried now to tell Jumbo, but, in fact, he
did not.  Jumbo would pretend to be interested when, in reality, he
was not.  There were many occasions now when Jeremy was on the edge
of rushing to Jumbo, kicking him fraternally and having it all out
with him; but something always held him back, and that something,
although he did not know it, was that he had himself, entirely in
spite of himself, changed about Jumbo.  He was acquiring a new
bundle of interests, interests that weren't Jumbo's.  He wished he
wasn't.  But how could he help it?

Then, going slowly into Leeson's on the way to his Study, something
further occurred.  The passage was dark and, moving rather blindly
along, he encountered another body, nearly fell over it, caught it
by its collar to save himself and discovered that it was the
Dormouse.

"Sorry," he said.

His hand was still on the Dormouse's shoulder and this led him to
discover that the boy was trembling all over.

"Hullo!" he said.  "What are you in such a funk about?  I'm not
going to kill you."

Becoming then more accustomed to the half-light he saw that the
Dormouse was in a very dirty condition of ink, dust and disorder.
The boy looked at him like a frightened rabbit.

"What are you in a funk about?" he asked him.

"Nothing," said the Dormouse.

"Yes, you are.  Of course you are.  Has anybody been hacking you?"

"No," said the Dormouse.

"Oh, well--"  He moved away and then came back.

"Look here, if anyone rags you, come and tell me.  It won't be
sneaking.  I won't let on to anyone--but I'll see they don't do it
again.  Who goes for you mostly?  Baldock?"

"No," said the Dormouse, his mouth trembling.

"Crumb, then?"

"No," said the Dormouse.

"Oh, well, if you won't tell me, you won't."  He paused awkwardly.
"Look here, show them you don't mind.  Everyone has to go through
it at first.  I did myself.  If they see you don't like it, they'll
go on with it."

The Dormouse said nothing.

"Will you come and tell me if they don't leave you alone?"

"Yes," the Dormouse said.

Jeremy went on to the Study vaguely uncomfortable and disturbed.
He WOULD have to go down to that Locker Room and see what was
happening, and then be mixed up in every kind of row!  But why did
he care?  A term ago he wouldn't have minded.  It seemed now that
it was in some way his own fault.

Five minutes later he had forgotten it all.  Everything was
suddenly jolly.  He and Gauntlet were, all in a moment, as they
used to be, forgetting grudges, suspicions, accusations, inviting
Ball and Hindlip in to tea (Hindlip was the fattest boy in Leeson's
and known as "The Tub"); then making toast, digging a thin spoon
that bent at the waist deep (oh, very deep indeed) into the
blackberry-jam pot, bringing it out with the handle sticky and
licking the jam off the handle; talking about everything five-
hundred to the dozen and never listening to anybody; the room
growing fuggier and fuggier; scraping the bottom of the condensed
milk tin to obtain from it the very last sticky remnant; suddenly
ragging "The Tub," turning him over and sitting on his so largely
protuberant places; hearing beyond the warm, rich, intimate luxury
of the little room the general life and buzz of the school, the
pianos jangling, the voices discordantly singing, the prefects
yelling for fags, the boots thumping down the passage; and knowing
that everywhere--in the hive of every House--this tumult was so
happily, with such jollity and freedom and energy, spreading itself
up and down, in and out, under and over. . . .  Jeremy was, of
course, not outwardly conscious of this, but, balancing back in his
chair on its two very uncertain legs, he was, at the top of his
voice with Gauntlet and Hindlip and Ball, singing this glorious
song:


    And so the old man had a
      Tum, Tum, Tum;
    And his voice it was jolly well
      Dumb, Dumb, Dumb;
    Till they turned him about on his
      Bum, Bum, Bum:
    And a jolly GOOD--THING--TOO!


3


The other tea-party was very different.  Parlow, although he was a
bachelor, had a house all to himself.  It was a rather mysterious
little house standing in a hollow below the playing-fields.  It had
a wonderful view of the sea, and was guarded on its left side by a
thick, bunched and inquisitive wood.  Inquisitive because the wind
had blown all the trees with their heads towards the house.

Boys in Parlow's form went often enough there with exercises,
detention punishment and anticipations of ferocious interviews.
Vivid pictures had been drawn for Jeremy of Parlow standing at the
end of his long study and shouting at his victims so that the
papers at the other corner of the room stirred and rustled with
terror.  But, for himself, from the moment that he passed the door
and stood in the little cool, white hall with the panelled walls
and a large blue bowl smelling of rose-leaves, he was happy.  He
raised his head, sniffing like a little dog.

And he had never yet, in all his days, seen anything so fascinating
as Parlow's study.  It was long and full of light, the windows on
one side deep and tall, framing an expanse of sea in the day,
guarded now by curtains of deep blue, and on the other side the
long wall papered with books.  Never before had he seen so many
books in one place and books that looked, in some mysterious
fashion, entrancing.  At the far end of the room was a wide, open
fireplace and in it a log-fire blazing; in front of the fire a
broad, solid table covered with food, and in front of the table,
advancing to meet him, Parlow.

Jeremy had a wild hope that perhaps he was going to be alone with
Parlow.  He felt that he could tell Parlow all sorts of things,
almost as he might Uncle Samuel (almost, but not quite).  He wasn't
shy in the least, but knew that he would be shy if any other boy
came.  But there was no sign of any other boy.  Only marvellous
things--on the tables and the book-shelves, an image of green
stone, a lion carved out of some flaming red stuff, drawings and
paintings, and a Chinese dragon with a bright green, curly tail.

He was turning with an inward chuckle of delight towards the fire,
when the door opened and someone came in.  He looked and saw that
it was Staire.

For a moment a surge of strange, almost ungovernable rage seized
him.  He had an impulse--mad, crazy, not at all his own--to walk
straight out of the room.  The very sight of Staire's neatness,
elegance, smartness, the carriage of his head, his easy entrance,
made Jeremy feel clumsy, awkward, a clod-hopper.

Was this a plot on Parlow's part?  He must have heard ere this of
the feud between them.  Was he doing it deliberately because he
wished them to be friends?  Well, if he was, he could jolly well
recognize his mistake, because friends they would never be, never,
never, never!

Or was it a joke of Parlow's because he wanted to see what they
would be like together?  It was a shame.  All the fun was gone, all
the happiness, all the pleasure.  He wasn't hungry any more; he
didn't want to talk to Parlow; he only wanted to get out and away,
some place where he couldn't see Staire's sharp, good-looking, hard
face; where he wouldn't feel rough all over and as though he hadn't
washed his hands, as though every word that he uttered would be so
foolish that Staire would be right to sneer at it.

He felt surging up in him that worst of all his failings--that
hard, sulky obstinacy, so that he shut his mouth and set his eyes
and loathed the world!

Then his manners saved him.  It was Parlow's house and it was very
decent of Parlow to ask him and to have such a ripping tea.  Parlow
didn't know how he and Staire loathed one another.  Why should he
know?  And even if he did know, it didn't seem to him very
important.  Two small boys having a row--no, not important at all.
Jeremy had a sense of proportion sufficient to realize this--and
yet, after all, how important it was!  His whole life now seemed to
be hanging round this quarrel with Staire, everything was coming
into it.  But Parlow didn't know that.  Of course he didn't.

They sat down to tea, and, I am sorry to say, Jeremy did not behave
well.  Who has not known those occasions when, unfortunately
placed, we determine nevertheless to rise above our conditions?--
and so indeed we would have done had not, most perversely, many new
hostile elements appeared!  "Well, I think I can manage THIS," we
say and, teeth set, face our opponent; but the words are scarcely
out of our mouth before the enemy's force is doubled against us.

So it was now.  Jeremy's resolve to be a perfect little gentleman
did not take into account that Staire should be at his most
devilish and that Parlow should apparently like him thus.  Staire
was, physically, at a party exactly right.  He knew how to move
softly, how to sit down easily, how to manage a cup, a saucer, a
piece of bread and butter without alarms OR excursions, how to
listen in just the correct fashion, how to contribute anecdotes of
his own without being either forward or familiar.  Yes, perfect at
a tea-party.  The only occasion even happier for him--a sunny
afternoon, himself in perfect whiteness stepping out to bat, and
the ladies murmuring:  "WHAT a good-looking boy!  I do hope he
makes a lot of runs!"  Which he very often did.

For some simple people he might seem a trifle too sophisticated, a
thought too ripely mature.  But these were the exceptions.
Negligible country people.  Bucolics.

To-day he scarcely noticed Jeremy, but bent all his arts upon
Parlow.  He was everything that Jeremy was not.  Because Jeremy was
made short and thick, sitting down gracefully was no very easy
thing for him and his legs were inclined to dangle.  Then he had
never been a genius at that old game--handling the teacup.  To-day
there was a fine broad table and no nonsense about it, but Staire
sat away from this table, balancing bread-and-butter, bread-and-
jam, buns and cakes (for all his elegance he made a very hearty
tea) most marvellously on the edge of his saucer.

But, worst of all, was Staire's complete command of the conversation.
It was not that he talked very much.  He listened exquisitely to
Parlow, but the important thing was that he was WITH Parlow in
everything that Parlow said.  He had, it seemed, been everywhere
that Parlow had been, or if he had not actually been there, had
studied those very countries so exhaustively that there was really
no need for him to go there.  About pictures and prints he was a
connoisseur.  He knew apparently what an etching was and its
difference from an engraving.  He knew where amber came from and,
as to Chinese pottery, whether Tang came before Ming or vice versa.

If he didn't actually know these things, he gave the impression
that he did, which, as every London hostess is aware, is just as
good.  The result of this was that Parlow, who, like every
collector, loved to be with someone intelligent to whom he might
show his things, chose Staire more and more exclusively as his
audience and Jeremy was in danger of being altogether forgotten.

At last Jeremy broke in:

"I've got an uncle who's been in Majorca, too."

Parlow either did not hear him or was too eager to continue his
praises of Pollenza and a huge, green wave that he had seen topple
in over the crystal sands of San Vincente.  Jeremy's remark was
unnoticed.  A little later Staire said:

"They say that the cathedral at Palma is well worth seeing.  I must
go there one day, if I have time"; and Jeremy, crimson in the face,
forgetting his manners and all his chivalry, burst in with:

"A fat lot you care about Palma!"--a truthful but most unfortunate
remark.

Parlow hated it.  He was enjoying himself.  Had he been in someone
else's house he might have found Staire a prig or a little self-
satisfied, but here in his own place he was enjoying his own things
and congratulating himself on a most pleasant afternoon (so often
on these occasions boys were tongue-tied and awkward and you longed
for them to go!).

He had, indeed, for the moment forgotten young Cole.  Now he
remembered him and turned to find him angry, red-faced, glaring at
Staire as though in another moment he would try to knock him down.

The awkward occasion was passed over.  Staire had not, it seemed,
heard the remark; that he had in truth noticed it you could be sure
by his increased attention to Parlow, his almost too confidential
implication that he and his host were alike suffering from the
boorishness of their unfortunate companion.

And Jeremy was miserable.  Now Parlow would hate him.  He would
never invite him to come by himself and look at the beautiful
things.  He had ruined the tea-party.

He had.  A silence, an awkwardness fell.  To the relief of everyone
the bell for evening chapel began to ring.

The two boys departed together.  Then, without a word to one
another, they set off on different paths up the hill to the School.



CHAPTER IX

FLIGHT OF THE DORMOUSE


1


And now events passed swiftly, or rather one event occurred which
was to be one of the principal moving points of Jeremy's life--
something that he will remember, with its slightest surrounding
circumstance, while consciousness of this world and his journey
through it remains.

The centre of this event was the Dormouse.  They were approaching
now half-term, and the Dormouse had arrived at a kind of dumb
lethargy that was worse, in spiritual ways, than his first
rebellion.

The worst examples of physical torture had not befallen him.  This
was partly because, as the weeks passed, he had become a fragment
of the general furniture of the term, partly because Baldock, whose
special property he was now acknowledged by everyone to be, felt
for him a sort of humorous indulgence, and beyond kicking him,
pinching him, twisting his arm and occasionally devising games for
him (as when he stripped him, put a paper cap on his head and stood
him on a form to the jeering admiration of all the Locker Room),
defended him from the assaults of anyone else.  Baldock found
everything in this jolly world a joke, and the Dormouse was one of
the best jokes he knew--so there you were!

Moreover, the Dormouse had now found some sort of clue to his daily
life.  He passed his days still moving from terror to terror; he
was never clean, never private, and with every hour his
intelligence was more muddled and confused; but he was not late any
more; he did, on the whole, what prefects ordered him to do; and
although he passed from imposition to imposition and was always at
the bottom of his form, he was allowed to lie there, hiding,
without public comment.

His misery was passive and dumb.  He did not, any longer, think of
it very actively; he did not cry, he complained to nobody.  He
moved from horrible event to horrible event without a murmur.

On every Sunday afternoon he wrote a letter home in which he said
that he was well and very happy and would like one jar of
blackberry jam and two of potted meat.  He read the letters from
his mother in the school privy, which was the only place where he
was alone.

Throughout these weeks he had not yielded about his allegiance to
Cole, and most of the actual tormenting that came his way was
caused by his obstinacy in this.

Cole was his god, and it was as impossible for him to swerve from
this faith and allegiance as for any mediæval tortured fanatic.

His actual daily life was spent among the small twittering animals
who inhabited the cellars in Leeson's handsome mansion.

Crale was, is, and pray God ever will be, a great School, and for
its inches it has contributed as much fine feeling, health and
vigour to the life of its country as any other institute of
training; but thirty years ago there was none of the passion for
protecting the very young that modern education boasts of.  I am
ready to be accused of stupid prejudice when I say that it is open
to question whether the present methods of over-coddling the tender
plant, now so evident at some of our private schools, produces
better results than the rough-and-ready indifference of the old
system.  But be that as it may, one thing is certain--no one was
ever over-coddled at Crale thirty years ago.

The Dormouse made no friends among these small contemporaries of
his.  That first five minutes in the Locker Room had shaken utterly
his confidence in his fellow human beings.  He was frightened of
them all.  He disbelieved in them all--save only in Cole.

A crisis, too, had occurred in his spirit on the night of the
Feast.  That was the only time when Cole had demanded of him a
service, and he had failed in it; moreover, Cole had, to his
frightened mind, seemed to hate and despise him when, after the
catastrophe, he had rebuked him.  He was no good, no good at all
for anybody or for anything.

He had sunk so low in his own estimation that it seemed to him
impossible that he should sink any lower--and yet one worse thing
remained.  A certain new boy named Cresson took a fancy to him.
Cresson, minute and insignificant though he was, was a fully
developed cad.  Small blame to Cresson.  He came from a home where
everything that was vile and coarse and mean was, day by day and
hour by hour, flaunted before his eyes.  He knew no better, but
that sad truth made him none the lovelier.  There was no vulgarity,
nor obscenity, nor falsehood, nor mean cowardice that Cresson could
not, on occasion, produce.  He had lived, almost from the day of
his birth, among stable-boys, grossly-minded nursemaids, drunken
men and women friends of his father.  He corrupted with a sure and
certain success nearly every boy of his age and size with whom he
came into contact, knowing no other, pursuing his natural and
inevitable course.

He did not corrupt the Dormouse, and that was because it takes
more, far more, than six weeks of misery and bewilderment to
contaminate the honour and noble traditions of such a home-life as
the Dormouse had known.  But for some reason he attached himself to
the Dormouse.  He was always there, creeping up to whisper some
dirty obscenity, to suggest some small theft or minor cruelty, to
twist something decent into something indecent.

And the Dormouse, because he had no friend and no companion,
yielded to this companionship.  He had at present neither the
strength nor the clarity of vision to push anything forcibly away
from him.  It seemed to him safer, in this world full of terror and
alarm, to act passively, to accept everything as it came, and hope
that he would not be crushed by it.

But he loathed Cresson, loathed him far more than Baldock; he
escaped from him when he could, but always Cresson seemed to be at
his side, and he had no power to resist.

Things were at this stage when the Sheep and Goats warfare awoke to
a new vigour.  No one knew why.  It was due in part, perhaps, to
that mist of dullness that begins to creep over the school-life
about half-term.  The novelties of change and return have worn
thin; the end of Term seems to be ever more and more distant;
something must be done to keep everything alive.

Then young Cole's stock had fallen.  He had played now twice for
the Second Fifteen, and it seemed definitely probable that he would
not this term be tried again for the First.  Reports were general
that since he had obtained a Study he had put on "side."  He was
Parlow's "pet."  He had been a jolly fellow, ready for any sort of
a "rag"; now he was ready no longer, and when he tried to bring
something off, it failed--witness the Feast.

Crumb and Baldock, on the other hand, had been very active on
Staire's behalf, and had trained a fine healthy band of young
warriors to harass everyone who fancied that he supported Cole.
The whole of the Locker Room was feeling a sort of ground-swell of
restlessness and lawlessness that prophesied events!

The Dormouse felt these earth-tremors and knew that they could not
bode well for him.  Also, he was sorry that his hero was under a
cloud.  Why were they not playing him in the First Fifteen?  There
was certainly no one so fine in all the school.  It was jealousy,
and probably Staire was behind it.  To the Dormouse Staire was the
Devil with all the Devil's grandeur, mystery and other-worldliness.
Very grand.  Very wicked.  Very powerful.

And then he was sharply made aware that Baldock and Crumb were
going to have no nonsense any longer about his partisanship.
Baldock, laughing, his arm around the Dormouse as though he loved
him, explained things.  "You see, Dormouse, I'm very fond of you,
aren't I?  (Twist of the arm.)  And you're very fond of me, aren't
you?  (Twist of the arm.)  So that it would be awfully silly if we
didn't think alike, being such friends, wouldn't it?  (Pinchings of
the thigh.)  Now you've had some silly idea in your fat little head
that you're going to stick up for Stocky Cole, as though he cared
whether you did or not.  He doesn't know you exist, hardly, but _I_
know because you're my special little dormouse and I'm educating
you, aren't I, Dormouse?"  (Twisting of the ears and sharp pulling
of the hair.)

The pain was acute, but the Dormouse answered never a word.  "Now
it's almost as though you were being disloyal to me, isn't it?  And
I'm sure you don't want that.  So, if you don't shout, 'Down with
Stocky Cole!' here and now--well, you'll see what will happen.  Now
shout!"

The Dormouse raised his face, which was purple because all the
blood had run into it, his head hanging over Baldock's leg, and
feebly whispered, "No!"

"Oh, you won't, won't you?"  His legs were twisted in a horrible
manner.

"No!" squealed the Dormouse.

A voice came, then, calling:  "Baldock!  Baldock!  I say, Baldock!"
Baldock rose, letting the Dormouse fall.  "I've got to go now, but
to-night--if you don't do what we say--you'll be roasted--and see
how you like that!"

Of all the threatened tortures roasting was the one that frightened
the Dormouse the most.  It made him sick when he thought of it.  No
boy had been "roasted" for a considerable time.  The last had been
more than a year ago, in Bunt's House, and a fine row there had
been about it.

But the Dormouse felt that on this occasion Baldock and Crumb meant
what they said.  And he knew that he could not endure it.  No, he
could not.  And if they attempted it, if they hung him up in front
of the Locker Room fire, pulling his trousers tight against his
thighs until they sizzled and smelt and began to burn, why then
he'd give in and promise them anything that they liked, and be
false to Stocky Cole.  He knew that he would.  It made him sick.
The thought of it made him sick.

So, after Baldock had left him, the resolve came to him as though
some friend had whispered it in his ear.  It was the resolution
that had been with him so often during his first days at the
school--only apathy and unhappiness had in the last weeks dulled
his purpose.

He would run away.  He would run away now.  He would run away this
instant.

It was late afternoon and growing dark.  In half an hour it would
be tea time.  His resolve buckled him with fine courage.  At the
thought of escaping from all this, some of his old self that had
been his before he came to this place returned to him.  He would
escape.  He would not be roasted.  He would not disavow Stocky
Cole.

He had a shilling, a silver watch and chain and a stamp-album.  If
he sold these, there would be money enough until he had walked to
Leicestershire.  And he might get a lift in a cart.

He was suddenly happy as he had not been for weeks and weeks.  He
would see the garden again and the horses and the dogs.  And his
Mother.  And the Tree.

He had no thoughts of pursuit and capture and punishment.  They
would not notice that he had gone.  He was so unimportant that he
mattered to nobody.  And he wouldn't have to listen to Cresson any
more. . . .

He had some bright ideas.  He went straight up to the dormitory
(which incidentally it was forbidden to enter in the day-time).  No
one was about.  No one saw him.  He dragged out his play-box from
under his bed, and in it was the stamp-album, a light-grey overcoat
and a grey cloth cap.  These he had worn in the holidays and they
had escaped the notice of the house-matron.

With these under his arm he stole very quietly out of the
dormitory, down the passage, the stairs, and into Coulter's.  No
one spoke to him; no one saw him.

In another minute he was through the school gate and walking down
the hill.  It was so easy as to be incredible.


2


There was yet some light in the sky, a great red gash in the dusk
over the sea as though the sky were bleeding.  Low on the horizon
little ripples of gold played and above them, studding so
unexpectedly the thick, grey fabric, one bright, shining star.

It was cold.  He was glad he had his grey coat.  The stamp-album
pressed under his arm was a kind of friendly companion.  He had no
sense of direction, but his plan was to find his way to the town of
High Dowden, which was, he knew, but a short distance, and then to
ask the road to Leicestershire.  He wasn't sure whether, having
found the direction, it would not be wiser to make his shilling
bring him as far in the direction of Leicestershire as it would.
It must, after all, be a long way to walk, because he and his
father had taken some time in the train.  Perhaps there was a short
cut across fields or something.

The sea now drove itself in upon his consciousness, the sea that
had woken him morning after morning and that had therefore been
responsible, as it were, for ushering him again and again into so
many horrors.

He had grown to hate the sea, but now in a moment he loved it.  It
was friendly, purring and whispering and crooning to him, telling
him not to be afraid, not to think that he was alone, whispering to
him that he was on his way home to Leicestershire.  It blew, cold
and salt, in his face.  Cold and salt and fresh and strong.

He was strangely not afraid; indeed fear had left him for the first
time in seven weeks, and that although the dark was coming on and
the hedges were mounting like walls out of the ground and his boots
clattered on the road with more emphasis than anything else at all.
There was only one star; no others came; and one bird, melancholy,
forlorn, seeking what it could not find.

But he did not care.  He had his stamp-album and he was free of
Baldock and Cresson, and soon he would be in Leicestershire.

Oddly enough there came into his head lines of a piece of poetry
that his mother had taught him only this very last time before he
came away.  He had not thought of the lines during all this time at
Crale, but now they came crowding into his head.  He remembered
them all in the right order--but then, before he came to Crale, he
had been very good at remembering poetry.  At Crale he could never
remember anything:


     Morning and evening
     Maids heard the goblins cry:
     "Come buy our orchard fruits,
     Come buy, come buy.
     Apples and quinces,
     Lemons and oranges,
     Plump unpecked cherries,
     Melons and raspberries,
     Bloom-down-cheeked peaches. . . ."

Especially he liked that line:


     Bloom-down-cheeked peaches. . . .


His mother had explained to him exactly how that was.


     Morning and evening
     Maids heard the goblins cry:


And at the word "goblins" a delicious warm shiver had crept down
his spine and he had put up his hand into his mother's warm one and
sighed with happiness at the lovely time they were having. . . .

Two things made him pause.  One was that he was at a cross-roads,
the other that the heel of his right foot was already sore.  He had
to confess now to a little uneasiness.  He could not have come very
far from the School and yet it was as though only he were alive in
all the world.  The light was so dim that you could scarcely see
the direction post, that had in its pointing fingers something
mysterious, as though it warned you.  No light from any window
anywhere, only the wind rustling through the grass and the clap-
clap-clap of the sea, now very close at hand.

But he had a great spirit (when he was not in the underworld of
Crale) and he would not be, thus early, deterred.  So he stumped
on, his head in the air, his eyes staring at that one bright,
glittering star and, over and over again in his head, as though
someone inside himself were singing there, the words:


     Apples and quinces,
     Lemons and oranges,
     Plump unpecked cherries,
     Melons and raspberries . . .


He stumbled along (it was growing REALLY dark now) and then, before
he knew anything about it, there he was, falling over short, thick
grass and tumbled plump on to his face right on the sea-shore
itself!

He stood up, feeling in spite of himself rather frightened.  The
sea was very near to him now and the white line of the waves as
they turned over shone in a kind of rhythmic phosphorescence, as
though they carried lanterns inside them.  Very near was the sea
and a fine pounding noise it made as it came down and turned over
with a slap like tumbling out of bed, and then drew back with a
hissing, grinding noise as though it would drag the Dormouse with
it.

He stood there, hesitating, not knowing quite what to do.  He had
not meant to come down on to the seashore.  This was not really the
best way by which to reach Leicestershire.  But the light now was
so strangely odd and veiled that it was difficult to make sure of
anything.  He did not wish, however, to go back the way that he had
come, so, clutching the stamp-album under his arm as though his
whole safety depended on his retaining it, he went on over the wet
and shivering sand.

Then he saw, to his left, a white, gleaming path, and he took this
and it climbed upwards.  As he left the sea and its roar became
muffled, he felt cheered again.  He MUST be on the right path now,
but perhaps it was a pity that he had started so late in the day.
If he had waited until to-morrow. . . .  Then with a shiver he
remembered.  That would never have done, because it was to-night
that they meant to roast him, and at the thought that he had
escaped all that and would never, never return to it, his spirits
went up and up and he was, inside himself, singing:


     Melons and raspberries,
     Bloom-down-cheeked peaches. . . .


and, then, later on (he forgot the bit in the middle):


     Currants and gooseberries,
     Bright fire-like barberries,
     Figs to fill your mouth,
     Citrons from the South,
     Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
     Come buy, come buy.


His mother had told him what "barberries" were, but he had
forgotten.  A nice word, anyway.  "Barberries, barberries,
barberries. . . ."

He was pressing up the hill now with little sharp pants, and his
heel, when he thought of it (which he mustn't do), was hurting a
good deal.  How was he going to walk all the way to Leicestershire
with a sore heel?  Later on he would sleep somewhere under a hedge
and rest it.  The thought of sleeping under a hedge was very
exciting.

Climbing with a last little victorious pant to the ridge above the
sea, he had the surprise of his young life because--oh, most
unexpectedly!--he was in a world full of lights and noise and
bustle.  He realized at once that he was quite close to a station
and then, after that, understood that this must be the station
connected with the School; so that in all these wanderings of his
he had come as yet but little more than a mile--and he had to
confess to himself that he was already tired and cold, yes, and
hungry.  However, here there might be a train that would be going
straight away to Leicestershire, and he might have a chance to
creep into a corner of it and nobody see him, and so be carried all
the way.

He knew, however, that this was the School station and that
although he was wearing his grey overcoat and his home cap,
nevertheless the sight of a small boy wandering loosely all by
himself about the place would rouse their suspicions, so he
determined to be very careful.

There were caverns of colour where the gas lamps spluttered, and
dark walls of mist and ebony between; he could not see very well,
and he nearly fell forward over some railway lines--then, looking
up, saw straight in front of him a long line of railway trucks.

These, as he looked at them, moved forward a little, then stopped
with a jerk and a slither.  He had at once the notion--why not
climb into one of them?  They were empty; no one was about; they
were going in the right direction, and so they must then, wherever
their journey ended, carry him closer to Leicestershire than he was
now.  When they stopped he could climb out and inquire the way.
They were not deep trucks.  Voices were in the distance.  The
engine hooted like a distressed cow, but no one was near.

In another moment he had climbed up, hung on to the top and dropped
inside.

Then in a corner he crouched, his heart beating loud tom-toms
because of his grand and, indeed, amazing adventure.


3


He was very small, and the truck had absorbed him.  Yes, and more
than the truck, because in another five minutes he was asleep,
forgetting the hard surface on which he was lying, the cold, the
strangeness and mystery of the gathering evening.

He dreamed that he tumbled from a great height straight into the
Leicestershire garden, that he fell on to the lawn with no hurt to
himself, but only, sitting there, looked up to see his mother
standing as she had often stood, in her wide, floppy hat, her
gardening gloves on and holding the garden scissors; and that she
said in her ordinary, unsurprised voice:  "Well, there you are!  I
was wondering where you were.  Now let's come and get some flowers
for the house."

And then off they went, his hand clasped by one of the cool
gardening gloves, and talking as though he hadn't been away ever.
Indeed, he had NOT been away.  He had had a dream within his dream,
a dream of some horrible place and some horrible people, and he
would not think of this nor tell his mother about it.

They went across the bright lawn soaked in sun and then through the
little door in the rosy-lichened garden wall, and there were all
the flowers, red and yellow and blue, their faces all smiling in
the sun, and butterflies dancing in the air.

As he slept, all the stars came out and the trucks went bumping on
through fields and woods, up hills and down into valleys,
cluttering through the evening air, chatting to themselves, passing
the message on, perhaps, from one to another that there was a small
boy fast asleep and what had they better do about it?

All through the night he slept and nobody found him; nobody, except
the trucks knew that he was there.

When he woke, it was so still that he might have been dead.  Then,
close in his ear as though standing on the truck above him, a cock
crew.  He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and at once was aware that his
body was very sore, his face and hands very dirty and that he was
lost.

This might be Leicestershire, but it didn't look like it.  In fact,
it didn't look like anything that he had ever seen before.  The
trucks were still and silent.  There was no movement anywhere.
About him was the grey half-light of an autumn morning.  No sign of
a railway station, but on one side of the line a hard, white road
and on the other a thick, overhanging black wood.

He was terribly cold, colder than he had ever been in his life
before, and he knew that he would have to take great care of
himself or he would begin to cry.

He must not stay in the truck, that was clear; someone would see
him, scold him, perhaps send him to prison, and although prison was
not so bad as Crale, yet it was not the place where he wanted to
be.

He tried to climb out, but at first his legs were so stiff and his
body so sore that he had no control over himself.  However, the
edge of the truck was very low, and at last, with a kind of
scramble and scuffle, he was over and sitting disconsolately on the
grass at the side of the road.

The cold drove him and he started walking forward.  But he did not
like this world.  He had never known before what the world was like
when there was nobody in it.  He realized for the first time (and
he was to realize it very often again) that people weren't of such
importance to the world as he had thought them.  It seemed, indeed,
that the trees of that black wood looked on him with great
disapproval.  He began to be frightened of the trees and ran a
little way to escape them, but the trees kept pace with him and ran
faster than he did.

Hunger was now a great question.  He WAS hungry.  He could eat
anything.  There were indeed two cottages on his right, but they
were absolutely dead, their window-panes as cold as himself.

Then he realized that he had left his stamp-album in the truck.
This was awful for him.  The stamp-album was the only hope he had
of ever reaching Leicestershire, and the only friend he had, too.

He walked back down the road to find it, but now all the trucks
were exactly alike.  There was nothing to show him which had been
his.  Even as he watched them a whistle blew in the distance and
all the trucks, chattering and whispering, began to move.  He
couldn't stop them.  He could only look at them as they bumped past
him.  Soon, one following another as though acting under secret
orders, they were gone.  Then, indeed, he felt desolate.  If the
world had been empty before, now it was NAKED.  The black wood
seemed to step down the hill and advance towards him.  So then,
seized with real panic, he started to run, and his heel dug knives
into him and everything began to run with him, the wood, the
cottages, the railway-line.

He ran, staggered, nearly fell, ran again, stumbled, then caught
his foot in a large stone, crashed to the ground, the black wood
tumbling on to the top of him, and sank into a pitch of darkness.



CHAPTER X

RETURN OF THE DORMOUSE


1


Nobody missed the Dormouse until Tea Call-Over.

His name was read over three times and, there being no answer, a
mark was placed against it.  But Tea Call-Over was not important,
because there was Chapel Call-Over at seven.  The School Prefect
wrote his name with a number of others at the bottom of his paper
and hurried off to his own tea in his study.

His immediate table companions--Cresson, Ellys-Roberts and others--
were also not disturbed, save that they missed his jam and potted
meat.

An hour-and-a-half later came Chapel.  This was one of the two
occasions in the day when the whole school met, every boy answering
to his name, beginning with the lowest form, and then passing into
the Chapel.

It was Cresson who, always on the scent for a sensation, noticed
that the Dormouse was absent.  As he pushed into Chapel with the
other small animals, all stumbling and shoving against one another,
he whispered to Standing Minor:

"I say, where's the Dormouse?"

"I don't know--why?" asked Standing.

"He wasn't at Tea Call-Over either."

"P'raps he's sick."  And, forgetting outside affairs, they played
noughts-and-crosses happily through the prayers.

After Chapel the head House Prefect--Whymper by name--brought into
Leeson's study the Call-Over absentees.

Leeson was about to go upstairs and dress for his own dinner.  He
threw a careless eye over the two lists.  Then he straightened up:
"Hullo!" he said.  "What's this?  Morgan absent from both Tea and
Chapel Call-Over!  The Matron hasn't reported him sick. . . ."

"I'll go and see, sir," said Whymper, and departed.

Leeson waited, standing in front of his splendid fire, warming his
back.  He wasn't at all worried about the Dormouse's non-
attendance, but the appearance of his name brought other thoughts.
All had not been well during the last weeks in the Locker Room.
Reports had been brought to him that there was a great deal of
unrest among the small boys and that a quarrel had developed
between Staire and Cole and that the small boys had championed
this.  He had heard rumours also that this quarrel was being made
the excuse for a good deal of "ragging"; even, possibly, of some
bullying.

He was distressed about this for two reasons.  He followed the
policy (in spite of his nickname and house reputation) of
interfering as little as possible in the inside affairs of the
House; he left these things to his Prefects.  That was well enough
when his House Prefects were strong, as they had been last year;
this year they promised to be weak, and he felt, all through his
House, tremblings and stirrings that foreboded trouble and meant
that discipline was relaxed.

He was disappointed in Whymper.  Secondly he was disappointed in
young Cole.  He liked that boy; ever since he had come to Crale he
had liked him.  He had promised, in spite of some young animal
wildness, to develop into exactly the right sort of boy,
courageous, honest, sensible, with a feeling for responsibility and
with humour.  But now it seemed that, with him as with so many
boys, he could not stand up to a little independence and authority.
Ever since he had had his Study this term he had changed.  He had
not looked so happy, some of the "gusto" had gone out of him, and
here he was developing a quarrel with a boy of his own standing,
until the whole of the Lower House was upset by it.

And, now he thought of it, it was this very boy, young Morgan, who
had been mentioned to him as a target of this Locker Room bullying.
He must look into it, and if Cole was making a disturbance he must
lose his Study for the rest of the Term.  A nuisance with a nice
boy like that. . . .

At this point Whymper returned.  "No, sir.  The Matron hasn't seen
him.  He's all right, as far as she knows."

"All right--and not turned up for two call-overs?"

"Yes, sir."

"He must be found at once and brought to me."

"Yes, sir."

Whymper departed.


2


By the beginning of evening Prep. everyone in Leeson's knew that
the Dormouse was missing.  Here was a sensation, a lovely, mouth-
filling, heart-warming sensation!

Bennett, one of the younger, newer masters, who was in charge of
the Preparation, could do nothing to stem the current of eager,
thrilling comment that ran under the forms, through the benches, up
the trousers, out of the shirts, into the collars.  "Silence there!
Who's that talking?  Who's that?  Stand up there!"

"Please, sir, I wasn't talking."

"Sit down and get on with your work."

"Who threw that note there?  You, Cresson, bring it to me."

"Please, sir, I didn't write it."

"Never mind; bring it to me."

On a dirty, tumbled bit of paper was scrawled:  "Dormouse has
drowned himself because Baldock was going to roast him."

"Who wrote this?"

No answer.

Then, rather weakly:  "If I have any more trouble, I shall set
everyone fifty lines."

But of course he did have more trouble, yes, until the hour was
over.  And behind his own words and actions was the thought, over
and over again:  "That poor little kid!  I wonder what has happened
to him.  Something bad's been going on here."

Because he was new to his job he was a sentimentalist.  Indeed, he
wrote poetry and sent it to the London papers.

Jeremy heard the news.  He was sitting gazing into the shape of
Uncle Samuel's sheep, puzzling over the lines of the "Æneid."  A
head was poked in through the door.  It was Stevenson, from the
next study.

"I say, have you heard?"

"No, what?"

In the ordinary run of events he would be working in Big Class Room
with the Lower School, but to-night he had been given special
study-leave, a favour occasionally to be won from an indulgent
prefect, under the plea of a terrible strain of over-work.
Gauntlet had also been given it and was alone with him there.

"The Dormouse has drowned himself."

"What?"

"Yes, he ran away this afternoon because they were going to roast
him, and he's drowned himself."

The head was withdrawn.

Gauntlet whistled.  "Crikey!" he said.

But Jeremy said nothing.  The news was too awful for any words.

And at once he knew that he was connected with it.  For weeks he
had known in his heart that in some way he was connected with the
Dormouse, that, whether he wished it or no, he ought to do
something about the Dormouse.  He had known it, but he had done
nothing.

Gauntlet, as his inevitable way was, said the true but unpleasant
thing.

"This is all because of your row with Staire, Stocky."

"Oh, shut up!"  Jeremy would willingly have murdered Gauntlet at
that moment.

All because of his row with Staire?  No, that wasn't true, but what
WAS true was that he ought to have done something for the Dormouse,
helped him in some way, made things easier for him.

He had known that the kid liked him.  Fellows had told him so.
Besides, he could be sure of it by the way that the kid sometimes
looked at him, and it was just because the kid looked at him like
that that he had felt uncomfortable and kept away from him.

But, sitting there, seeing the Dormouse drowned, his dead, dripping
body even now in Leeson's study, it was now that he knew the
sharpest, acutest moment of all his young life--and the bitterest.

"Perhaps it isn't true," he said, turning to Gauntlet.

"You bet it's true," said Gauntlet.  "Those things always are."

"No, they aren't.  Chaps will say anything."

Nevertheless, he was sure that it WAS true.  He had been
forewarned.  Fifty times of late his conscience had urged him, "Go
into the Locker Room and see what Baldock and Crumb are doing."
And he had not gone because he had wanted to leave it all alone,
because he felt that he had "grown out" of that kind of thing.  And
now the Dormouse was drowned!

Sitting there, he looked back to that moment a few days ago when he
had stopped the Dormouse and spoken to him.  How the kid had
started when he had put his hand on his shoulder!  Nice kid, too,
really, if he'd cleaned himself up a bit and respected himself. . . .
He shivered.  What was the use of that NOW?  The kid was dead.
Drowned himself because they were going to roast him.  And he might
have stopped it.  He was almost as good as a murderer.

The door opened and Whymper came in.

"Cole, would you mind going to Leeson?  He wants you in his study."

"Would you mind . . . ?"  So like Whymper to be polite.

Cole went out, Gauntlet following him with inquisitive, impersonal
gaze.  In the passage boys were standing about.

"Hullo, Stocky!  Where are you going?"  He didn't answer them.  He
went straight through.  He expected to see the Dormouse's body laid
out, under a sheet, on Leeson's sofa.  He was trembling all over as
he turned the handle of Leeson's study door.

Immense relief came to him when, coming into the warm cosy study,
he saw no one and nothing there, only Leeson standing up in front
of the fire.

"Well, Cole. . . .  Shut the door. . . .  You've heard perhaps that
Morgan has run away?"

"Oh, sir. . . .  Then he isn't dead!"  The relief was tremendous,
tremendous.  He gulped in the throat.

"Dead!  No--of course not.  Who said he was dead?"

"The boys said he'd been found drowned, sir."

"What rot!  Of course not.  Ridiculous nonsense!  But he's run
away.  He was in the same dormitory as you.  I thought you might
know something about it."

"No, sir.  I don't know anything."

"I hear there's been some bullying going on--in the Locker Room
especially, and that young Morgan has been treated worse than any
of the others.  Had you heard anything about it?"

"No, sir."

Leeson's voice took on an added sternness.

"Now, Cole, listen to me.  I know your ridiculous code of honour.
I haven't been a schoolmaster all these years without being brought
up against it again and again.  You're not going to sneak.  That's
the only idea in your head.  Well, I don't want you to sneak.  You
needn't mention another boy's name except your own.  It's about
yourself I want to speak to you."

Jeremy's eyes dropped.  He shifted his feet.  Then he looked
straight into Leeson's face.  "Yes, sir," he said.

"You're in this," Leeson went on, "as I can see you very well
recognize.  I will begin by saying that I've been disappointed in
you this half-term.  Just after you came back I had you in here for
a private talk.  Do you remember that?"

"Yes, sir."

"I spoke to you very frankly.  I told you that you were beginning
to be a person of importance in this house--not much importance,
but some--and that you must begin to realize that; that you had
influence here especially with the smaller boys.  You seemed to
understand that.  I had good hopes of you.  But having a Study
doesn't seem to have improved you at all, and all that you've done
this term so far is to kick up a row with another boy which has
managed to spread through all the Lower School boys in the house.
Is that so or isn't it?"

"I didn't know it, sir," said Jeremy.

"Now, come!  Is it true that you've had a quarrel with another boy
in this house?"

"Not a quarrel exactly, sir," said Jeremy, hesitating.  "We just
can't stand one another.  We never have."

"Oh, I see.  Not a quarrel exactly, but you just can't stand one
another!  Not much difference as far as I can understand it.
Anyway, did you know, or didn't you, that the Lower School boys
were taking sides?"

"Yes, sir, I did."

"And that this boy, Morgan, because he stood up for you, had to
take a good deal of bullying?"

"I'd heard about it vaguely, sir."

"You'd heard about it vaguely?  Well, a year ago you wouldn't have
heard about it vaguely: you'd have gone into it and seen about it.
You wouldn't have been able to stand the idea that a small, new boy
was being knocked about because of yourself and that you were doing
nothing to stop it.  Isn't that so?"

Jeremy hesitated--then he plunged.  "You see, sir, I heard vaguely
that there was some bullying in the Locker Room, and I saw that
Morgan didn't look very cheerful; but I didn't think it was my
business to go back into the Locker Room now that I was in a Study.
I've hated this row with Staire, and I don't think he's wanted it
either, sir.  We never could stick one another, but we didn't want
to go for one another either, only chaps sort of shoved us at one
another.  But I knew I ought to do something about Morgan.  I've
been feeling it for some time.  But I thought that, if I went back
into the Locker Room and began kicking up a row, that everyone
taking sides about me and Staire as they were, it would only make
things much worse, you see, sir."

Leeson couldn't help himself.  Whenever he came into direct contact
with this boy he liked him.  The boy was as honest and sturdy in
character as he was in build.  He stood there exactly as he was,
and he looked Leeson in the face without flinching.

However, Leeson had no time just then for sentiment or heroics.  He
was worried desperately by this business.  Worried because it was
abominable to think that in his House this child, who was hardly
out of the nursery, had been bullied so badly that he had had to
run away to escape it; worried for the reputation of his beloved
House; worried for the reputation of his beloved School.  So he
regarded Jeremy sternly.

"I don't like it, Cole.  You mightn't have had much to do with this
directly, but you've had a lot to do with it indirectly.  You've
been here three years.  You've got influence, as I've said.  You
might have stopped this and you didn't."

Jeremy might have said that that was the business of the House
Prefects, but he didn't say anything at all.

"I expect you to help me here, not to hinder me," Leeson added.

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy.

There was a pause.

"Well, you can go.  Remember what I've said."

"Yes, sir."

He went.  The Dormouse wasn't drowned: that was one thing.  On the
other hand, everyone thought him a rotter.  He wasn't sure that
they weren't right, but he wasn't going to show them that they
were.


3


By Morning Chapel every boy in the school knew what had happened--
that a small kid in Leeson's had run away.  This event bound for an
instant the whole school together as only certain things--Speech
Day, the Rugby Match against Callendar, the Cricket Match against
the Old Boys, or a very particular scandal--could do.  Every boy
was thinking that morning of Leeson's, thinking with a peculiar
mixture of pride, interest, self-righteousness and speculation.

It was two-and-a-half years now since any boy had run away.  Then
it had been two Sixth Form boys in Haggard's House.  They had been
in London a whole week and had had a delightful time, then,
forcibly returning, had been publicly flogged and had proclaimed
the adventure worth it.

But this was different.  By First School everyone knew that this
kid, Morgan, had run away because he had been bullied within half
an inch of his young life.  Here much virtuous Pharisaical
judgment!  Just what you would expect of Leeson's--a rotten House,
anyway.  What was Paddy Leeson doing not to interfere before it had
come to this?

And then, with this, some nervousness on the part of various pasty-
faced, over-stout gentlemen who had been trying their hands, once
and again, at a little private fun of their own.  It was said that
half Leeson's would be expelled.

By mid-morning the names of Stocky Cole and Staire were much
discussed.  They were both of them known beyond their House because
of their games ability.  So far as Cole had been known he had been
liked, "a plucky little devil."  Staire was not so popular, "apt to
put on side."  And here they were.  They had, between them, bullied
apparently the whole of Leeson's Lower School.  So said one
version.

Another story ran that Cole was the kid Morgan's protector and that
Staire had attempted to lure him away--Hinc illæ lacrimæ.  Another
account was that Cole kept a number of small boys to practise his
Rugger half-back tricks upon and that every night he forced them to
scrum and knocked them about to keep himself in form.

And there was young Morgan himself.  Some said that he had been
kidnapped by gipsies and was now being held to ransom; others that
he had paid a fisherman to row him out to sea, had boarded an
Atlantic liner and was now half-way to America; others that his
father had come in the dusk of the evening, carried him off and was
now threatening Leeson with the law.

The small boys of the Lower School were, of course, especially
thrilled with this splendid adventure.  They were eager with
narratives of what they would have done had they been in Morgan's
place.  Some of them wished that they had gone off, too, and
thought of home with sighs and longings; others couldn't see what
he wanted to run away for; others hoped "he would jolly well catch
it" when they brought him back; others, taking with great gusto the
gloomiest view, said that of course he had drowned himself in the
sea, that he would never be found and that fishes were now
devouring his bones.

Great fun for nearly everybody.  A few suffered and, of them all,
perhaps Jeremy the most.

When, afterwards, he looked back, he could never remember the
events of that awful morning.  He dragged himself through morning
school, trying to escape the endless questions; the joyful
prophecies--"By Jove, YOU'LL catch it, Stocky"; the false
consolations, the unkindly jeers.

At mid-day he escaped away to that field that overlooked the sea,
his favourite place, and there, although a cold, sharp wind was
blowing, stood looking across the bending, writhing trees to the
grey, chequered sea, where the white caps were like little
fragments of paper blown about its ruffled surface.

After all, what had he to do with it?  Why was he being jumped on
by everybody?  He hadn't bullied anybody; he had never been unkind
to the boy; he had scarcely ever spoken to him.  Why should Leeson
be disappointed in him?  He had been behaving better this term than
ever before, sticking to his work, not ragging anyone, playing
football to the best of his ability--why was everything going
wrong?

But in his heart he knew that, in some way or another, he had
missed the right thing.  He wasn't happy.  He hadn't been happy for
weeks.  He had half-quarrelled with Jumbo, his best friend; he had
kept to himself; he hadn't been jolly with everyone as he used to
be.  And then he had been a coward about the Dormouse.  He could
have looked after the kid, who was, after all, in his dormitory.
He had seen, quite clearly, how miserable the kid was, but he had
avoided him lest fellows should laugh at him or hint beastly things
or think him "soppy."

He was changing; things weren't as simple as they had been.  A year
ago, as Leeson had said, he would have "jumped right in," had a row
in the Locker Room and claimed the Dormouse as his property.  He
would have done it all without thinking.  Now he thought about
everything and a lot of good it did him!

Most of all did he hope that Ridley knew nothing of this.  Ridley
wasn't the sort of fellow, he imagined, to care whether or no a
small kid at the bottom of the school had run away.  It was
probable that he had heard nothing about it, or, if he had, that he
did not connect Jeremy with it.

But as he stood there Jeremy had an impulse, as powerful as any he
had ever known, to go off to Ridley now and to explain to him that
he had never done the Dormouse any harm and that it was not his
fault that the kid had run away.

And a nice soft thing that would be to do!  Ridley, to whom Jeremy
had never addressed one word in all his life, who did not know in
all probability that Jeremy even existed.  And yet of all the
trouble connected with this affair this was the worst!--that Ridley
should think badly of him, should say, perhaps, "That chap Cole
must be a rotter"; should look at him, maybe in Chapel, with a
quick disapproving glance, and, after that, never consider him
again.

Of all the possibilities this was the worst.  Better that Ridley
should never, to the end of his days, be conscious that Jeremy
existed, rather than think badly of him.

Behind these thoughts all the time--the consciousness that the
Dormouse must have suffered badly to do a thing like this.  He must
have had weeks of misery and bullying and home-sickness.  Those
swine, Crumb and Baldock!  And, as Jeremy thought of them he hated
Staire more deeply than ever before.  He must do something to get
at Staire, must fight him, or, at least, tell him to his face what
he thought of him.  Things had gone too far.  No one should say now
that he was a coward or wanted to keep his place safe for the
football.

Let the football go to blazes!  With which heroic resolve, his head
up, he strode back to Coulter's.

That evening, just before tea, everyone knew that the Dormouse had
been found, brought back, and was even now in the infirmary.


4


At fever-pitch the excitement.  The Dormouse had returned; now for
punishment.

Although only two days ago the Dormouse's personality had been so
small as to be almost invisible, it swelled, over-night as it were,
into balloon proportions.  He had become, because of this escapade,
a kind of Robin Hood--Munchausen--Jack the Ripper.  He had returned
"to wreak his vengeance on his tormentors," as Marlowe put it.
Marlowe, indeed, informed Jeremy that he had torn up two of the
chapters in his present romance, "The Trump of Doom," reality for
the moment proving itself so much greater than fiction.  He would
rewrite them on Dormouse lines.  He intended, if it were possible,
to have an interview with the Dormouse in the infirmary and to get
from him the minutely accurate details of his adventure.  Marlowe
was, in fact, one of the early apostles of the realism of to-day,
now so popular.

Meanwhile, details of the Dormouse's "finding" varied.  On one hand
it was asserted that he had been found, nearly murdered, in a
lonely house on a windy common.  Another version had it that he had
been discovered bound hand-and-foot to a post, waiting for the
encroaching sea to devour him.  On all hands it was agreed:

(1) That he had had a romantic time.

(2) That he was a plucky kid.

(3) That he held Baldock, Crumb and Co. in the hollow of his hand.

Interest in truth passed that night rather swiftly from the
personal history of the Dormouse to the yet more intriguing
question of the fate of his persecutors--and especially Crumb and
Baldock.

Expulsion was the least that could happen to them.  Possibly
expulsion and a public flogging before the whole school first.

And, behind them, the aloof figure of Staire.

And, behind him, young Cole.

There was some revelation of character in the manner in which these
two boys, Crumb and Baldock, took this pause before punishment.
They had both undergone interviews with Leeson; they were both
aware, by semi-ostracism, that everyone expected them to suffer the
worst; they must, both of them, have passed an exceedingly
unpleasant day.

Crumb minded.  He minded very badly indeed.  He wilted from hour to
hour.  All the stuffing dropped out of him; you could almost see
the sawdust scattering the ground about him.  He was frightened,
terribly frightened, and he only increased his fear by going to his
intimates and inquiring of them his probable fate.  This delighted
them, and they exercised all their imagination and fancy in
outlining possible penalties for him.

When he went to bed that night he wished himself dead.

It was very different with Baldock.  He really could not see what
the fuss was all about, or why the kid had run away.  He was very
fond of the Dormouse.  He always had been.  His attitude to him was
precisely that of a Roman noble who had been robbed of his
favourite slave.  He was a very decent little kid and had
understood Baldock properly.  It was true that he had been very
irritating and aggravating about young Cole, and some "moral
suasion" had been necessary to persuade him to look at the matter
in the proper light, but that had been young Stocky's fault.  Why
hadn't he interfered?  After all, he knew what was happening.  If
he didn't like it, he should have said so.

In any case, he, Baldock, wasn't intending to let the business
interfere with his personal happiness.  If they did expel him,
there were plenty of other schools.  If they whacked him, that
didn't last long and he had a tough skin.  He found life much too
jolly to let a little thing like this spoil his sleep.  He was
quite sincere in this.  There was no swaggering pose.  He had no
nerves and no fear.  He won much admiration among his companions.
In after-life he had the nickname of "The Buccaneer."  He made a
number of people unhappy in the course of his pilgrimage, but never
himself.


5


Meanwhile, the hero of the day was sitting up in the infirmary
talking to his father.  There was nothing very much the matter with
him.  When he had fallen in the uncertain light of that early
morning, he had knocked his head on a stone, and there was a large
bruise to testify to that.  A farmer driving his cart into market
had discovered him, picked him up, carried him to a neighbouring
farm-house, revived him, discovered his origins and telegraphed to
the school.  He had been brought back by train late that afternoon
and his father had arrived shortly afterwards.

He looked extremely small, sitting up in a very large, woolly
dressing-gown, eating his supper.  He was cleaner and happier than
he had been for many weeks.  Everyone was very nice to him.  It was
difficult not to be.  He looked such a baby.

The point was, whether or no he would return home to Leicestershire
with his father.

"I'm disappointed with you for not sticking it," his father said to
him.  "Our family must stick anything."

Quite so; but the Dormouse most urgently endeavoured to make it
plain that there hadn't "been anything to stick."

There hadn't been any bullying.  No one had threatened to roast
him; he had had a most charming time.  Everyone had been sweetness
itself to him.

"Then what did you want to run away for?" his father naturally
inquired.

Oh, he didn't know.  It had just happened like that.  He thought
he'd see what it was like.  He knew that it was very wrong.  He
wouldn't do it again.

Well, then, would he come home now, back to Leicestershire, stay
away for the remainder of the term, come back next term?

There must have been a great conflict in his young heart.  Here,
offered to him without any pains or penalties, was the very thing
for which, for weeks, he had been longing.  On the other hand,
he had a very clear picture in his mind of the thing to which,
if he stayed, he would be returning.  The Locker Room, Baldock,
Roasting. . . .

But, oddly enough, the issue was clear.  He would remain.  He knew
that his father wanted him "to stick it out."  In some odd,
undefined way he wanted himself "to stick it out."

No, he wouldn't go home.  He would stay.

So he kissed his father, finished his egg and bread-and-butter,
turned over, and went to sleep.



CHAPTER XI

DARK DAYS


1


Daime, "The Camel," Crale's head master, stood on a small piece of
rising ground, under a gaunt and writhen tree, like God, surveying
what he had made.

Only he was not like God, being dreamy, shy and inconsequent.  And
he was like God, also, because he was determined, ruthless and
gifted with humour.

He had not made Crale--he knew that well--but as he stood on that
lovely October day of blue and amber, near his House, he could see,
as though into a bee-hive, every nook and cranny, and he knew that
if he hadn't made that hive he had at least coloured it a little
with his own pet paints.

And he loved it.  He loved it for its beauty, standing with its old
cream-coloured, ivory stone, so strong and ancient above the sea;
he loved it for the life in it because, without idealizing them, he
cared deeply for his fellow men; he loved it for the youth in it
because he was himself young and would always be young; he loved it
for the strength and optimism of it, a strength that he was for
ever hindering from arrogance, an optimism that must never become
self-conceit; but most of all he loved it because it was for him
England, and, without any greedy Imperialism (and that was an
Imperialistic time) or any Pharisaic patriotism he adored England,
her hills and fields, rivers and little ports, her poetry, humour
and common sense, her past, her present and her strange intriguing
future, as he adored nothing and nobody else on the face of this
globe.

So he looked down upon Crale and found her good.  He knew her
faults better than any other could possibly know them.  He was for
ever engaged in a battle with all the baser elements of ugliness,
arrogance, impurity, convention, that must always attack an
institution that is made from tradition and selection, but he loved
the battle, he scented it from afar, like an old war horse, and he
fought, never resting, untiring, but only escaping once and again,
as every dreamer does, into the safe quiet land of his own fancy.

Standing there under a cumulus of ivory-white cloud, looking over
the russet-coloured land, he saw all the business and rhythm of the
place, the little box-like rooms, the networks of passages, the
large open places, the Chapel cool and dark, the high gymnasium
light and shining, smelling of ropes and leather and beeswax, the
long dining-rooms now bare and empty, the dormitories more bare and
more empty, the class-rooms just now humming; a restless, stirring,
quivering life, ideas, thoughts, beauties, old sterilities, new
thrusting discoveries, being dropped like bright-winged flies into
the waters to catch the gliding, darting trout; all the thoughts of
all the brains of the past circling and hovering there, but the
fish for the most part reluctant, scornful, impertinent; only in a
rare while, when something just to their taste comes glittering
down, they jump, they bite, they are caught, landed . . . yes, and
then off the hook, slipping down the bank into the water again not
to be caught next time so easily and yet with a taste, a savour in
their gullets that will never again quite forsake them.

Oh, a great sport!  Worthy of a man's life-time energy and self-
discipline and courage.  A work in the world that IS a work and not
a mere selfish, lazy fantasy.  He turned eagerly in the fresh,
sunshiny, nipping air and saw Leeson approaching.

He liked Leeson increasingly.  Of all the staff Leeson was the man
who was in process of becoming his friend.  Making friends with
Daime was a slow, cautious business.  He did not surrender himself
easily, but when at last he did, his surrender was complete.

Leeson joined him, under the silver cloud, on the shiny knoll.

"Well," said the Camel, "and what of the runaway?"

Leeson sighed.  "Oh, he's all right.  Stuffing himself with grub
and holding on tight to his code of honour--not to give anyone
away.  No one's been pressing him very hard.  All the same he's a
plucky kid.  I'm afraid he's had a nasty time before he ran off and
I'm to blame."

"No," said Daime.  "Not if you leave things to the House Prefects.
That's the best way, even if they do occasionally let you down."

"They're not going to be a strong lot this year, I'm afraid.  The
worst of it is that the boys under them have got the personalities
that THEY ought to have.  Young Cole and Staire are the trouble.
I'm not sure that one of them shouldn't be moved into another
house."

"Won't that be rather admitting defeat?" said Daime.  "And those
are two remarkable boys who'll do credit to the House next year."

"Who knows," said Leeson despondently, "how they'll develop in the
meantime?  They are just at the 'awkward year,' both of them.  Last
term I would have sworn to Cole anywhere--exactly the type of boy
we want.  But this term--whether having a Study has gone to his
head or whether his hostility to Staire is twisting him--"  Leeson
broke off.  "I don't trust him as I did."

Daime nodded his head.

"I've noticed it again and again.  That move up from the Lower
School is the ticklish time.  But I would bet on young Cole.
There's not a boy in the school I'm more sure of."

"How do you keep track of them all?" Leeson burst out admiringly.
"It's all I can do to know the boys of my House.  But YOU . . ."

Daime watched the silver cloud threading now into wisps of crystal
thread.

"My job . . . my passion . . . my curiosity.  And it grows with
every year more absorbing, more intriguing, more touching, Leeson,
to have the job you love to do, to have the physical strength to do
it, to feel the beauty in it and the drama. . . .  Yes, I'm a lucky
man.  More than my deserts."

The two men, brought close together by a common vision, stood there
for a while in silence.  Then they turned to walk together towards
the house.

"What I want to have," said Leeson, at last, "is your advice in
this.  These two, Staire and Cole, am I to let them go for one
another, because it's coming to that, or shall I put my foot down
and separate them?"

"Let them fight it out," Daime answered.  "There's less bad blood
that way.  Keep your eye on them but if it comes to a fight don't
interfere.  And look out for the Lower School ragging.  Unless I'm
very far out young Morgan is going to find himself a bit of a hero--
and it will go to his head.  If it doesn't, he'll be a child worth
watching."  He put his hand on Leeson's shoulder.  They stood there
listening to the hurtling rumble of the sea.

"Beautiful place," Daime murmured.  "It's good to be alive!"


2


Young Jeremy Cole was unfortunately not finding life, at this
moment, as beautiful as his head master did.  He was very unhappy
indeed, more unhappy perhaps than he had ever been before.

The chief reason of this unhappiness was that it was, in its
essence, unsubstantial.  When, in earlier days, there had been
troubles they had been easily defined.  If he thought, he could
bring them up from the very earliest days--the time when he had
been forbidden to go to the pantomime because he had lied about
brushing his teeth; the day when he had fought the Dean's Ernest;
the awful hour when his mother had nearly died; the night when the
Sea Captain had entered their house and robbed it; the terrible
occasion when he had been accused of stealing money to buy
Christmas presents; the night when Hamlet had died--yes, these had
been definite enough . . . and at school too, always before, rows,
anxieties, pains and penalties, you had been able to see all round
them--you got what you deserved or you didn't get what you
deserved, the fact was definite enough.

But now, for weeks, trouble had been piling up around him; now it
had reached its climax.  Everyone knew that he was in trouble;
everyone behaved to him as though he WERE in trouble, but what had
he done?  Why should he be in disgrace?  It was almost as though he
had committed some crime.

He had been from his very tenderest years a boy who liked jollity
and friendliness and a fine open relationship with his fellows.
And until this term that was what he had always had.  He had taken
such a relationship for granted.

He was feeling now, for the first time in his life, what it was to
be unpopular.  He had behaved, in some way or another, badly over
this affair of the Dormouse.  Jumbo, with all the frankness of one
whose best friend is in a mess, told him just what everyone was
saying.  Everyone was saying in the main three things:

(1) That he was stuck-up.

(2) That he had bullied the Dormouse.

(3) That he wasn't as good a football player as he thought he was.

Now the second of those accusations was quite obviously unfair.
Far from bullying the Dormouse he had scarcely ever spoken to him,
and when he had spoken to him it had been, save on one hasty
occasion, in kindness.

As to being stuck-up he could only say that he didn't FEEL stuck-
up.  The crowd is fond of this accusation and makes it often on the
slightest grounds.  I knew a boy once who was for years charged
with conceit and this because his pince-nez would tilt forward on
to his nose and so force him to lift his chin into the air.

But with Jeremy it was always the last thing to be said.  He had
never thought very much of himself, because he had never thought of
himself at all.  He had had, of course, his proper pride; he could
stand up for himself when need be, but his bump of admiration for
others was a large one.  He had always a catalogue of heroes and
would always have, his life through.

Bewildered, he inquired of Jumbo whether HE thought he was stuck-
up.

"No," said Jumbo, but added, "You don't rag around as you used to."
No, he didn't.  That was true.  He thought about that.  Mere rags
with no reason about them were not as amusing as they used to be.
For one thing there seemed to be less time for them.  What with
football, and reading books like "Dracula," and trying to swat up
things for Parlow, and listening to chaps like Marlowe, there
wasn't so much time.

And with whom were you now to rag?  He didn't want to return to the
rough and scrabble of the Lower School.  When you had a Study you
had a Study.  It was different.  He knew, moreover, as Jumbo talked
to him, that the entry of Ridley into his life (quite unknown to
Ridley) had made a difference.  When he thought of Ridley, which
was now very often, he didn't want to "rag" just about nothing.  He
wanted to talk to Ridley, he wanted it more than anything else in
the world, save only of course his First Fifteen Colours.  There
were so many things that he would like to ask Ridley.  Things that
somehow he wouldn't dream of asking Jumbo.  And yet he had never
exchanged one word with Ridley and, in all probability, never
would.

Nevertheless, the main trouble was of course this affair of the
Dormouse, and about that he must do something.  But what?

The Dormouse no longer needed his defence.  Since his return the
Dormouse had become popular.  In the first place he had run away,
been brought back and not punished.  That showed great cleverness
on his part.  In the second place he had refused to sneak.  He
hadn't mentioned a single name.  He had laid no charge.

Fabulous stories were now told of him.  His father was a
millionaire, his mother the most beautiful woman in England, and
himself, if only given the opportunity, would astonish the whole
school with his athletic prowess.  He did, indeed, develop
amazingly in these new conditions.  He was no longer frightened at
every step, his brains (which were good ones) returned to him, he
made friends on every side.  Only he hated Baldock and Cresson.
Baldock twisted his arm and pinched his legs no longer, but he
shivered still at his approach; and the slimy, filthy-minded
Cresson he shuddered away from.  No harm was to come to him any
more from either of them--but at least he gave them no opportunity.

His worship of Jeremy was stronger than ever.  When anyone abused
his hero he reddened with anger.  But he was shy.  He was not going
to risk another rebuff.  Even in the dormitory he never spoke to
him.

Meanwhile Crumb and Baldock, bullying being out of favour, busied
themselves with the blackening of Jeremy's character.  There was no
crime of which they did not accuse him, and they found plenty of
listeners.  Everyone likes to see someone who has been popular
degraded.  It gives a pleasant savour to everyday monotony; it
means promotion for the world in general; it just shows us all that
we are not to be taken in by anyone; we can see as clearly as
another, heaven be praised.  And so Jeremy suffered, as many
another has done, for the faults of others, his own obstinacy and
the careless progress of events.

But himself, he attributed this suffering to one, and to one alone.
Staire was his enemy and he was Staire's and one day Staire should
know it.


3


And so he came to one of the darkest hours he was ever to
encounter.  For years afterwards this was to be the standard of
unhappiness with him.  "Is it as bad as that time Parlow was sick
with me?  Did I mind as much as that day when Parlow rated me?"

With this experience came so many other revelations that it may be
said really to have meant the passing away from him for ever of his
babyhood.  In the hurt and pain of it he discovered that for life a
terrific stiffening and tightening of the reserve forces would be
necessary.  When a blow like this could descend on your head
without warning, as it were, from an empty and preoccupied heaven,
you COULD make no preparation against it.  So, then, you must be
armed against everything, yes, EVERYTHING and everybody.  Let no
sentiment, warmth of feeling, loose emotion betray you.  You walk
forward through jungle, the enemy lying in ambush.

With this received and accepted knowledge childhood ends.

The shock that it was to him proves also the kind of boy that he
was, because to many of his companions it would have been no sort
of shock at all; Parlow would have been called a beast and there's
an end.  To some self-seeking boys it would have been a shock of
social ambition disappointed; to some sentimental ones a shock of
wounded personal esteem; but Jeremy was neither self-seeking nor
sentimental.

He was a hero-worshipper, staunch and utterly loyal.  Certain acts
seemed to him base and mean beyond credit, and to be accused of
these acts in public the most terrible affront; he was just at this
moment lonely and sensitive without knowing why.  He could not
quite catch what the world was saying around him.  To believe for a
moment that it was saying what Parlow said would make life
impossible . . . even at its direst moment he did not believe that
Parlow really meant it.

The hour began in mild and unambitious fashion.  It was the English
hour and the form had had for preparation the first twenty lines of
Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey."  Parlow, in an earlier lesson, had
read the whole poem through to them and read it well.  Then he had
given them his own picture of Wordsworth, escaping the "idiotic old
dodderer," forgetting the egotism, self-satisfaction and complacent
old age, saying nothing of the "controller of stamps," but creating
for them the nobility and sincerity and humility before Nature,
describing Dove Cottage, with the little hilly garden, and the
Grasmere Lake, and the high rough clouds above Dunmail, and the
purple shadows of Helvellyn.

For Jeremy that had been the first slender vision of a man and a
country afterwards to be worshipped by him; and then when Parlow
had read "Tintern Abbey," himself so deeply moved by it that, when
he came to


             Therefore let the moon
     Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
     And let the misty mountain winds be free
     To blow against thee,


his voice trembled taking a deeper note, Jeremy seemed to be moving
with him, to be in unison with him and to feel what he was feeling.

He took, then, especial trouble with his lines, learning them, as
he found to his surprise, very quickly, because there was no story
in them; they were, in a way, all about nothing.  The last of them
delighted him, he knew just what they meant him to know:


          . . . these orchard tufts,
     Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
     Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
     Among the woods and copses, nor disturb
     The wild green landscape.  Once again I see
     These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
     Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
     Green to the very door: and wreaths of smoke
     Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!


"In silence."  Yes, that was exactly it.  He would tell Uncle
Samuel about that.  The little old man with his little old sister,
and the crooked garden, and the lake under his window, he knew how
things were!

So he went into the hour, excited with anticipatory pleasure.

He very quickly discovered that Parlow was in no good humour.  You
could tell that by the way that Parlow sat hunched up behind his
desk, his bulk overflowing it, his face set and resolved as though
it had been cast in clay.

The excitement of the earlier lesson was not there to-day and the
form at once knew it, and a little wind of apprehension blew
through them all.

"You're a lazy, idle lot," Parlow began, "and want jumping on.  If
I find anyone here who hasn't learnt this I'll jump!"

He had a preliminary skirmish or two with poor Standing, who was
very swiftly reduced to tears and condemned to write out the whole
of "Tintern Abbey" four times; which little incident gave Standing
a healthy loathing for the works and personality of William
Wordsworth until the day of his death.  Then came Staire's turn,
and Staire, without hesitation or falter and also without feeling
or intelligence, yielded up the first four lines gracefully and
with a fine air of being kind to the poor old poet.  He kept, with
admirable precision, his social distance.

Parlow may have perceived this and been irritated by it, but he
said only, "Right.  Cole, go on."

Jeremy stood up and at once, facing Parlow, was staggered.  He had
been accustomed now for many weeks to look across the room at a
friendly, smiling Parlow, ready to help him over every stile, to
excuse blunders, to joke and make merry.

Here was another Parlow, hostile, scornful, impatient.  There was
something in Parlow's anger that frightened older and wiser heads
than Jeremy's, but its worst aspect now was that Jeremy had
suddenly, in a moment of time, lost a friend and that without cause
or reason.

So that, thinking of this, the lines that he had known so perfectly
only a moment before deserted him.  He began:


       Once again
     Do I behold . . .


Then stopped.  He listened to his own voice stopping.  Parlow
listened.  The class listened.  He started once more:


       Once again
     Do I behold these steep . . .


There were no words in his head, only cobwebs, spiders, twisted
skeins of wool.

"Well?" said Parlow.

He could think of nothing.

". . . These steep and lofty cliffs," said Parlow.

". . . These steep and lofty cliffs," said Jeremy.

"That on a wild . . ."

"That on a wild . . ." said Jeremy.

"Yes," said Parlow.  "Write out the poem four times." Then, raising
his voice a little, he said:

"You have been too preoccupied knocking about boys smaller than
yourself, I suppose.  Takes up too much time to leave you any for
work.  Any other small boy run away because he's frightened of you,
Cole?  Fine way to spend your time.  I congratulate you."

The class was delighted.  One for Cole!  Favourite no longer.

"Carry on, Bunning," said Parlow.

Jeremy sat there staring in front of him and seeing nothing.


4


He sat on there until the end of the hour.  No one paid him any
attention.  Parlow did not ask him questions.  His ill temper
seemed to leave him as though, having jetted that little spurt of
anger at Jeremy, he was satisfied, and during the last twenty
minutes he lost himself eagerly in a comparison of great English
poems, "Tintern Abbey," "The Ancient Mariner," "The Grecian Urn,"
"The Lotos-Eaters."  But Jeremy heard nothing.  He sat there,
staring before him, then when the bell rang got up and went quietly
out.

The sun was shining, everyone was shouting around him.  Someone
came dancing up to him crying:  "I say, Stocky, you are down for
the Second on Saturday!"  He did not know; if he had known he would
not have cared.

He wanted to be by himself, to think this beastly thing out.  Where
should he go?  The Study?  There would be Gauntlet or Marlowe.  He
must walk away somewhere.

"Any other small boy run away . . . ?"  And everyone had heard.
Everyone.  A fool like Standing.  Staire.

He looked up and there, walking straight towards him, was Ridley.
Ridley with that far-away, preoccupied look, slim and straight,
DECENT-looking, different, somehow, from everyone else.

Why shouldn't Jeremy speak to him?  Say something like:  "Can I
speak to you a minute?  There's a rotten thing happened. . . ."
But Ridley didn't know him, didn't know his name probably.  Ridley
would stare, mutter something, pass on confused.

Jeremy's heart was hammering, his face was crimson.  Ridley came
straight towards him as though he would run into him, saw him, for
a moment their eyes met, then Ridley swerved turning to the right
and vanished round a corner.

Ridley, of course, didn't know him.  But suppose he did know him,
suppose he had heard about him and thought, "Oh, that's the fellow
in Leeson's who bullies small kids."  Suppose that Jeremy had
spoken to him and had seen Ridley's dislike of him jump into his
face!  Everyone in the school would know now--now that Parlow had
spoken to him like that, and before them all!

He was walking furiously, he neither knew nor cared whither.  His
feet, obeying habit and custom, led him to the field beyond the
school where you could see the sea.  But he had no eyes for the
trembling shadowy blue, no ear for its murmur.

He came abruptly to a stop.  Like a shot out of a gun he felt it
strike him:  "Everyone in the school thinks I did that.  What
Parlow said everyone is thinking!"

The injustice of it was like a madness.  Before, in his babyhood,
it had been the same when they had accused him of stealing money
that had not belonged to him.  The injustice of that had seared him
like a burn.  So did this now.

Why, he had never been near the Dormouse!  He had not this term
touched a single Lower School boy!  Anyone who knew him at all must
realize that he had never bullied anybody!  Ragging, just for the
fun of it, but never bullying, doing the things that Crumb and
Baldock did!

His spirit grew black and bitter.  Well, if that was the way people
thought of him they could jolly well think.  He wasn't going to
bother.  He wouldn't care.  He'd show them that if they thought he
was like that he WAS like that!  He'd go his way, his hand against
every man's!  He didn't want friends.  He'd rather have enemies.
Enemies!  Yes, Staire, Staire was his enemy.  It was Staire who had
made people think these things.  He'd get back on Staire, though;
Staire would be sorry he'd ever made an enemy of him.  If everyone
thought him a cad he'd BE a cad and Staire should feel the might of
his caddishness.

But his thoughts, leaping and tossing now like the crest of an
angry sea, swept on to Parlow.  Parlow hated him.  Parlow would
never like him again.  He would never see any more those books and
those pictures, never hear Parlow talk about all the things that he
liked, never feel again that warm friendliness that Parlow had
given him so bountifully.  He had liked Parlow awfully--oh,
awfully!  Parlow had been of Uncle Samuel's world, knowing all
those things that Uncle Samuel knew.

Jeremy had not known until now how deeply he had counted on
Parlow's friendship for the future, seeing it grow and grow so that
as he, Jeremy, became older, he could understand better and better
the things that Parlow wanted him to understand.

And now that was all finished, and finished in the unfairest way,
so that the figure of Parlow was itself dimmed and spoilt.  Parlow
had been unfair, not asking about the truth or trying to discover
it, not speaking to Jeremy first in private but charging him
falsely with dirty actions in public before all the world.  Yes,
Parlow would never be the same again.

He turned back to the school, kicking the turf with his feet as he
went.  Everything was over and for ever.  All his life he would be
known as the bully, the coward.  Always for years and years it would
be told at Crale how a small boy had run away because he, Jeremy
Cole, had bullied him.  There was to be no more happiness anywhere,
no fun, no football, no anything.  Everything was over. . . .

Reaching the school he felt what he had never in his life felt
before, that he wanted to hide.  Everyone was looking at him and
talking about him.  (Of course no one was either looking at nor
talking about him.)  Leeson's was blazing with sunlight and life.
It was a quarter of an hour before dinner.  The passages were
filled with scurrying, shouting, hurrying tumult.  He brushed like
a ghost through that world.  "Hullo, Stocky!" "I say, Stocky!" . . .
He might have known from the sound of those voices that he was
not cast out, that they still needed him, that nothing was changed.
But he did not hear the voices.  He went on, his head up, glaring
about him.

He went, some subconscious instinct driving him, up to his
dormitory.  It was forbidden to go into the dormitories during the
day, but no one saw him.  The upstairs passages were deserted, his
dormitory, when he entered it, flooded with sun and empty.

He went to his bed and sat down upon it.  The white beds and the
white washing-basins smiled at him but he did not see them.  The
sea crept in and rumbled, rumbled at his feet.

He sat there, kicking his short legs.  He had been publicly
disgraced.  The whole world thought him to be something that he was
not.

Injustice.  Injustice.  Injustice.  His spirit broke and, burying
his face in his hands, he cried and cried like a small child lost.



CHAPTER XII

VISIT OF UNCLE SAMUEL


1


He awoke next morning earlier than usual, before the clanging bell
had broken his dreams, and with a dim sense that something awful
had occurred.  Then gradually it came to him and, as he lay there
thinking, his face set obstinately.  He was an outlaw and everyone
hated him.  Well, then, he'd be an outlaw.  If they didn't want him
they needn't have him.  As for Parlow--but he didn't want to think
about Parlow.

Then at breakfast time there was a letter from Uncle Samuel and
with very surprising news in it.


For which reason (it began unexpectedly as his letters always did)
I shall pay a call on you afternoon of Wednesday 16th.  The REASON
is that an old boy with a knobbly nose and two chins has decided
that he would like me to make a picture of him.  He saw "Cows" of
mine in London and thinks that my pastoral style will exactly suit
him.

Moreover he has the good sense to live not far from your place of
education so that I can see you at three and leave you at five (as
much as I can stand of you on end).  Ask those in authority to free
you for those hours.  On Wednesday I believe you have a half-
holiday so all should be well.  If you don't want to see me you've
only got to say so.  I know what it is to be stricken with
relations in public.

Moreover I shall have green paint on both cheeks and be wearing my
dirtiest overall so you'll be ashamed of me I warn you.  It will be
a good lesson for you however on how not to be a snob and I shall
be very happy to watch you learn it.  All here are well except that
your sister Mary has spots which don't add to her beauty.  Barbara
is developing intelligence and a sloping chin.  One will make up
for the other.  Now make ready for me--I'm no easy guest to
entertain.  I demand the best of everything and can be most
unpleasant when I don't get it.

                  Your loving Uncle

                                SAMUEL.


Jeremy's emotions when he read this letter were of a curiously
mixed kind.

Once again Uncle Samuel had stepped in at the very moment when he
was needed.  The very thought of his funny screwed-up face and
common sense was a comfort.  On the other hand, did Jeremy want him
to appear just now at the school?  Hadn't Uncle Samuel put his
stubby finger as usual on the point when he hinted at Jeremy's
snobbery?

What WAS snobbery?  Staire was a snob because it mattered to him
where people were born and whether they dropped their H's or no.
Jeremy wasn't like that, but what he WAS like was to be made
uncomfortable when he was in the company of someone who looked
funny or did funny things.  Was THAT snobbery?  Because if so, then
practically every fellow in the school was a snob.  And naturally,
too.  Because a fellow's relations could say or do or look
something that other fellows would never forget.  There was
Cheepstow's mother, for instance, who came down last year wearing a
hat like all the flowers of Paradise pressed together on to one
small foundation of straw.  Would Cheepstow ever be allowed to
forget his mother's hat?  Never!  And hadn't it in some mysterious
way led to Cheepstow himself being considered a bit of an ass?
Awfully unfair, of course, but then, as Jumbo had very sapiently
remarked, "A chap ought to warn his mother. . . ."

And then there had been Faithfull's father, who was an Archdeacon.
Of course an Archdeacon has to wear an apron and gaiters--it's in
the Church Law--but when a man is as fat and as short as
Faithfull's father, it's a little unfortunate that HE should be an
Archdeacon!  And then Faithfull himself being so long and skinny
they made the oddest pair walking along Coulter's, especially from
behind. . . .

These experiences and others like them were all in Jeremy's mind
when he considered Uncle Samuel, as of course Uncle Samuel had
known that they would be.  Now, if Uncle Samuel arrived at the
school in full view of everyone IN his oldest clothes and with
paint on his face (this was quite possible) THEN Jeremy would never
hear the last of it.  Did Jeremy love Uncle Samuel enough not to
mind never hearing the last of it?

Yes, most surprisingly, he did!  The discovery was so unexpected
and yet so certain that on making it he was amazed.  He hadn't
known that he loved Uncle Samuel so much.  Perhaps his special
circumstances just at this moment made him cling to his uncle more
tightly than was normal.  Perhaps not.  It seemed improbable that
his feelings about Uncle Samuel went up and down.  They had always
been so exactly the same.

So he wrote his uncle a letter:


DEAR UNCLE SAMUEL,

It will be ripping your coming.  I'll tell Leeson about it and when
you arrive you have to go to the Camel's house it's got red creeper
like mange all over it and ask for me and they'll put you in the
study and I'll be sent for.  I've been playing footer for the
second which is sickening and I'll be jolly glad to see you give my
love to father and mother and Helen and Mary and Barbara.

          From your loving nephew

                              JEREMY.


2


When Wednesday 16th arrived it was a fine day, which was a good
thing.  What wasn't a good thing was that Jeremy was down for a
House practice game and he had to go to Llewellyn, the House
Captain, and ask to be excused.

This he hated to do.

Llewellyn was a little as Jeremy might be, three years from now,
broad in the back, thick and short in the leg.  He'd had his nose
broken, boxing.  He was known to be amiable except when roused;
then he was a perfect devil.  He had no influence in the House at
all, because he cared for nothing but football, boxing, his dogs at
home and his friend Corner, who shared a Study with him.  Corner
was the exact opposite of Llewellyn, being slender, wistful and
musical.  Rather like a girl, and known as Alice by his enemies,
Llewellyn adored him and thought everything that he did wonderful.

When Jeremy went into his Study Llewellyn was having his chest
rubbed by a small and perspiring fag.  He grunted at Jeremy.
Jeremy made his request.

"Getting rather slack at footer, aren't you?" Llewellyn snorted.

"Just the opposite," said Jeremy.

Llewellyn brushed the fag aside like a fly and stood up, puffing
out his chest and smacking it.  "If you weren't so slack you'd be
playing for the First."

Jeremy, very sensitive just now, saw an insult in everything.  So
he said nothing but stood and glared.

Llewellyn appeared to like this because he suddenly laughed.

"All right," he said.  "It ain't my fault.  You're a darned good
scrum-half, as I'm always telling them.  If I let you off to-day
you've got to be there on Saturday.  The House matches aren't so
far off."

"Thanks," Jeremy said, in an off-handed way.  Then, in spite of
himself he laughed too.  He didn't know why.  Llewellyn looked so
funny, rubbing his chest with such care and preoccupation.  He
looked nicer with a broken nose somehow.  That laugh was the
beginning of rather an important friendship.

And of course he had to see Leeson.  Leeson also had something to
say.  "Cole, Mr. Parlow tells me you're not working as well as you
did; you're slacking off."

Jeremy, looking like a mule with his legs planted wide, answered
nothing.

"Well?" asked Leeson, irritated.

"I'm not slacking," he said at last.

"Having this Study seems to do you no good," Leeson went on.  "I
can't think what happens to you boys when you get a Study.  It goes
to your heads, or something.  You've got to pull up during the rest
of the term, Cole, or steps will have to be taken."

Jeremy stood there scowling.

"I don't know whether I'm right to let you go out with your uncle.
I'm not at all sure that you deserve it."

Jeremy's expression was, "Please yourself.  I don't care."

"However, as your uncle is coming all this way and it's only for an
hour or two--"

Jeremy went.

Yes, the world was his enemy and through no fault of his own.  He
hated everybody and everything.  However, when he saw Uncle Samuel
standing there on the middle of the Camel's purple carpet he was
delighted.  He couldn't help himself.  That curious bond that there
was between himself and his uncle was simply too much for him.  He
wouldn't have minded if his uncle had kissed him, which, of course,
Uncle Samuel would never think of doing.

The Camel, too, was very decent.  Jeremy encountered him so seldom
that a meeting with him was rather like a meeting with God.  But,
God-like or no, he knew all about boys.  He unwound his strange
serpentine legs and talked about football, sea-bathing, skiing in
Switzerland and a ridiculous time he'd once had when he lost his
way on the Underground--and all this as though he were himself
deeply interested and was not merely making conversation.
Moreover, he made you feel that it was YOU that he liked talking
to, you, Jeremy Cole, and that he hadn't had such fun for weeks.
It didn't last very long, but Jeremy went away with his uncle,
ready to die for his head master.

Moreover, the fates be praised, Uncle Samuel didn't look in the
least bit odd.  He hadn't paint on his face and his old grey suit
was a perfectly sensible one.  Of course, he WAS a funny shape and
his voice was different from any other voice, husky with a crack in
it, but there was nothing in his outward appearance that any boy
need mind.

They went away together.

The afternoon light was silver over sea and land.  The sky was
ribbed with clouds, lying in pale, saffron ridges on a surface that
was almost white.  Trees and buildings caught the colour from an
invisible sun and trembled on the verge of rosy splendour that was
delaying for the sunset.  It was one of those autumn afternoons yet
early, but preparing, it seemed, for some gorgeous display--as
though at the striking of some hour the curtain would be rung up
and then--what wouldn't you see?  England is always preparing for
such displays, but over and over again Nature decides that the
performance is not quite ready.

"It's your two hours," said Uncle Samuel.  "You shall do whatever
you please."

"Let's go down to the beach," said Jeremy, "and then have tea at
Mrs. Grafton's."

"Who's Mrs. Grafton?" asked Uncle Samuel.

"She has a shop for teas in the village," said Jeremy.  "She's out
of bounds, except you're with your people.  Mulling Minor took me
and Jumbo there when his aunt came."

"Was it a good tea?" asked Uncle Samuel.

"The tea was frightfully decent but Mulling's aunt was awful."

"Well, how are you?" asked Uncle Samuel, after a while.  "You seem
pretty fair."

"Oh, I'm all right," said Jeremy.

"So there's something the matter?" Uncle Samuel asked, at once
detecting trouble.

"I'm all right," said Jeremy again.  The time was not yet.  So
Uncle Samuel, instantly perceiving this, began in his odd, jumbled
fashion to talk of his own affairs, and, as always, he spoke to
Jeremy as though he were of his own age and generation.

"You see, it isn't right for me to go on living on your father any
longer.  Of course I pay him something, and your mother finds it a
help with the house-keeping, but I don't pay as much as I'd be
paying somewhere else.  Up to now I haven't had it, but lately I've
been making some money."

"How much?" asked Jeremy, keenly interested.

"Oh, I don't know.  A pound or two.  And I'm going to make more.
You see they're beginning to like my pictures."

"Who's they?" asked Jeremy.

"Oh, people in London and Paris."

"Aren't you surprised?" asked Jeremy.

"Not very.  Tastes change.  I was a little ahead of my time.  Soon
I'll be behind it."

"Chaps here," said Jeremy, "don't like that picture of yours I've
got, a bit--the one with the purple sheep."

"You hang on to it, my boy.  That'll be worth some money some day."

Jeremy did not reply.  He didn't agree with his uncle, but, young
though he was, he knew that artists had their own ideas about their
work and that it wasn't wise to disabuse them.

"It will be awful if you go away.  I shall never see you."

"Yes, you will."

"Where will you go?"

"Paris, perhaps.  You must come and stay with me there."

Here was excitement!  Paris!  As though one said the North Pole.
"Oh, that would be ripping!  People eat frogs there, and snails.
Staire says he knows it backwards.  I bet he doesn't.  He's an
awful swankpot."

"The trouble is," went on Uncle Samuel, "I'm rather old to move and
I'm frightfully lazy.  Not about my work but moving anywhere.  If I
weren't I'd have moved years ago."

They were in complete harmony now, as though they had never been
separated.  Jeremy was not of course aware of it, but Uncle Samuel
was wondering, as he had so often wondered before, why it was that
he was more completely at his ease with this small boy than with
any other human being in the world.

They were approaching the sea.  They went through a gate, then
across a shelving field, past a ruined and deserted cottage, then
over some dunes and so down on to a beach, marbled by the
retreating tide.

The sea was far out, a stretch of silver.  On every side of them
the sand, mother-of-pearl beneath the faint dim sky, wandered to
gentle horizons.

"Let's sit here," said Uncle Samuel, suddenly sinking down on to
the edge of the dune.  He lay back, his stomach like a round
cushion, his legs like bolsters.  He looked up at the sky.

"Now then, how are things?" he asked.

Jeremy sat pressed up against him and dug in the sand with his
heels.

"Everything's rotten," he said.

"How's that?"

"I don't know.  It ought to have been all right.  I expected I'd
have a ripping term but it's all gone wrong."

"Whose fault?" asked Uncle Samuel.

"It isn't mine, anyway.  I haven't done anything that I can see.
There's a chap I can't stick."

"What's his name?"

"Staire.  We've always loathed each other.  His father's something
swell in the Diplomatists."

"Oh, I see.  Well, how's he made things rotten?"

"Oh, every way.  He's good at cricket but he's no good at football,
so he hates me because there isn't any cricket this term; and chaps
that are friends of his have been bullying kids in the Lower
School, and then one new kid ran away and when he was brought back
they said I'd been bullying him."

"Well, had you?"

"Of course I hadn't.  I'd hardly spoken to him ever.  Anyway,
there've been rows all the term, and they say it's my fault and
Leeson's been jawing me and says he'll take my Study away if I'm
not careful.  And now Parlow's sick with me, too."

"Who's Parlow?"

"He's my form master.  He was frightfully decent to me all the
first part of the term, so it makes it worse.  And they're only
playing me for the Second."

There was a suspicious gulp in Jeremy's voice.  Uncle Samuel knew
that things were in a very bad way indeed.  He put his arm round
the boy, but only, as it were, by chance and not as a demonstration.
But Jeremy did not draw away as he would have done had it been
anyone else.

"Who was this boy who ran away and where did he run to?"

"He's a boy called Morgan.  I don't know where he ran to.  He was
away a whole night.  He's popular, now, because he didn't split on
anyone.  It isn't fair, because I never touched him.  It's only
Staire who told lies to everyone."

Uncle Samuel thought a moment.  Then he said, "Have you been
showing off because you've got a Study?"

Jeremy turned on to him a puckered and disturbed face.  "No, I
don't think so.  I'm just the same."

"When we get a step up people always think we're showing side,
whether we are or not.  Then probably we do, just to show them.  If
he's been telling lies why don't you have it out with this boy
Staire, or whatever his name is?"

"So I would," said Jeremy eagerly, "only I didn't want to have a
row this term, just after getting my Study.  That's why it's so
rotten."

"Ever been unpopular before?" asked Uncle Samuel.

"What do you mean--unpopular?"

"Everyone disliking you, thinking you do everything for the worst
reasons, wanting you to do them for the worst reasons."

"No," said Jeremy.  "I suppose I haven't.  I've never thought about
it.  I just used to rag about."

"I see," said Uncle Samuel, pulling his fat chin, as was his custom
when he was thinking.  "What's the other fellow like, the fellow
you hate?"

"Staire?  Oh, I don't know.  Awfully sidey.  Thinks his skin's
different from everyone else's.  He's jolly good at cricket but
he's no use at anything else."

"Well," said Uncle Samuel.  "If you weren't yourself, if you were
some third person and saw yourself and this Staire, which would you
like best--without prejudice?"

Jeremy, who always took Uncle Samuel's points very quickly--they
were the kind of points that he would like to make himself, if he
were clever enough--honestly tried to consider this, saw himself as
Jimmy Smith, benignly considering an impersonal Cole, an abstract
Staire.  Funny, when you looked at it this way, how differently you
yourself appeared!

"I suppose," he said at last, slowly, "that if I didn't know either
of them, well, I'd like Staire best.  He's better looking and knows
more things.  But honestly, I think I'm better to be with MUCH."

Uncle Samuel laughed and drew his knees up into his stomach.

"There you are.  That settles it.  All your life there will only be
a few people who have time to know you WELL.  The general view will
be the one the crowd takes, the superficial one.  You haven't got
to pay any attention to that, EVER.  Only two things for you to
listen to.  Your judgment of yourself, and you've got to make that
as honest as you can.  Don't be biased in your own favour, if you
can help it.  Don't be too much down on yourself, either.  And
otherwise, listen to the two or three people who really love you.
You'll be lucky if you have so many.  If THEY think there's
something wrong with you, then pay attention--it's serious.  But
the CROWD--Lord! the crowd!  They're ALWAYS wrong.  Or no," he
corrected himself.  "Not always.  There's SOMETHING in their idea
of you, but not enough for you to worry over as long as you've kept
your self-respect and the respect of two or three who know you."
Then he lay back and beating his hands on his stomach murmured:


     Hey diddle diddle,
     The Cat and the Fiddle,
     The Cow jumped over the Moon--


He looked out over the sand, over whose mysterious pools shadows of
rose and amber were now softly stealing.  "There's one glory of the
Sun and one of the Moon.  The Stars blaze in their confident
splendour and the sands of the sea shall be glorified. . . .  Well,
it won't do you any harm to be unpopular for a bit.  But fight that
chap, if he's telling lies about you."

They were silent for a while, then Jeremy said:

"There's another thing, Uncle Samuel.  You know Jumbo.  I've told
you about him before.  He's always been my best friend.  I can't
talk to him any more."

"What do you mean--you can't talk to him?"

"I don't seem to want to tell him things, like I used to.  It was
all right when we just ragged about, but now there are other
things--all sorts--and he doesn't know what I mean. . . .  He wants
everything to be as it was--and it isn't."

"Oh, I see," said Uncle Samuel.  "Is there anybody else?"

"Not exactly.  At least there's a chap called Ridley.  He's in the
Sixth.  I've never spoken to him in my life.  I don't think he even
knows my name.  But I'd do anything for him, I would really.  I
know it sounds silly.  I don't know why I feel like that.  It's the
way he looks or something. . . ."

Jeremy stopped, awkward and embarrassed.  How was he ever to make
anyone understand?  Uncle Samuel sat up.  He stared out to sea,
frowning.

"This boy--he's in the Sixth, is he?  Sure he hasn't spoken to you
or looked at you or anything?"

"No.  He doesn't know I'm there, even."

"Because friendship with a boy so much older--do you think it's
wise?"

"He isn't so much older," Jeremy answered.  He was looking into his
uncle's face so honestly and with eyes so frank and clear-sighted
that there was nothing to fear.  "He's much cleverer--that's all.
He's quiet, you never see him about with anyone else.  I'd like him
to be my friend.  I sort of feel one day he will be."  The boy
sighed.

"But it's rotten dropping Jumbo, when we've been friends so long,
isn't it?  Only I've changed--I don't want the same things as I
did; I don't want always to be ragging around--and he hasn't."

"That's all right," Uncle Samuel answered.  "Friendship's like
that.  You aren't friends with someone only because you want to be.
You can't have a friend unless you can feed one another.  Once or
twice in your life you'll meet someone and you'll go on with them
for the rest of your days.  Finer and finer it is.  But for the
rest--those you meet on a journey--be grateful for the times you've
had together, let it go when it's over, bear no grudges, above all
don't prolong it falsely.  No one knows at the start what a
friendship's going to be.  Don't hang on and be false.  Life's all
movement, or ought to be.  Don't be sentimental over reminiscences
and don't charge others with falseness.  On the whole, you'll be
treated as you deserve."

Uncle Samuel yawned.  "I get perilously like your dear father, at
times.  I suppose it's living with him so long.  The sad sea waves
are creeping into my bones.  Now, what about tea?"

Jeremy scratched himself like a little dog and jumped up.  A great
burden had fallen from him.  Why?  His uncle's lazy words, the sky
now scattered with little crimson feathers, the long stretch of
misted sands, the sleepy murmur of a friendly sea, the smell of the
sea-pinks, the stiff sand grass, the flavour in his nostrils of
sheep and wind and salt.  Like a young goat he skipped away.

Having had their talk they were now, both of them, very happy and
noticed everything that came their way; the gulls perched like
white snowballs on the red-brown soil, the bare lift of the green
hill against the rosy sky, the girl with two pigs who passed them
as they struck into the path, and an old man standing in the dip of
the green hill and calling something again and again.  He'd lost
his dog, maybe, but there was no dog in sight and no sound but the
purring of the sea and the grunting of the two pigs.

"And it isn't," said Uncle Samuel, sitting in Mrs. Grafton's
cottage, "difficult to live a life like this.  I'd sleep late in
the morning, have two brown eggs and a rasher of bacon for my
breakfast, take my paints with me and go for a bathe, read a bit of
a newspaper or the story in 'Home Chat,' have a snooze--my head in
the warm sand--and so come back when the lights are being lit and
the woman of the house is ready for some talk.  A fine life for a
man of my age!"

And it was a fine tea--Jeremy had never seen a finer.  There were
brown eggs and rashers of bacon, scones and a square of yellow
butter with a cow stamped on it, blackberry jam and Cornish cream,
a heavy cake thick with currants, saffron buns and watercress--and
a black teapot as big as a man's head.

Around the room there were pictures of ships, and there was a fine
group of wax fruit under glass, a canary in a cage, and enormous
photographs of Mrs. Grafton's father and mother, the fire leaping
in the fireplace, and Mrs. Grafton herself with any amount to say.

But best, far best, was Uncle Samuel himself, all bunched up beside
the table, like a wise old bird, his hair on end, his cheeks round
and rosy, his eyes sparkling as they always did when he was happy,
talking with his mouth full, banging the table with his fists.

What did he talk of?  Shells and fireworks, leprechauns and
daffodils, landladies' bills and the mistakes undertakers make over
funerals, the Tower of London and Lady Jane Grey, pirates and their
bloody ways, painting people upside down when they don't know
you're looking at them, kings who keep their crowns in hat boxes
and the man who went to the North Pole and found a bag full of
diamonds.

Time to catch his train!  Jeremy walked with him along the dusky
road to the little station.  At the last, just before Uncle Samuel
stepped up into the close, stuffy little carriage, he took his hat
off and sniffed the air, then--because the platform was dim and
there was no one to see--he caught Jeremy and held him and kissed
him.  He had never kissed him in all their lives before.  The train
snorted away and Jeremy trudged up the hill to school.



CHAPTER XIII

THE UPPER TEN--AND THE LOWER FIVE


1


Jeremy returned another man.  He had not yet reached the status of
self-analysis so he did not worry himself as to why he felt
differently.  He did not think about it at all.  He was happy
again.

But he was happy, now, with a strange mixture of aloofness in his
happiness.  He did not seem to mind any longer what other people
thought of him.  Uncle Samuel had, in some strange fashion, given
him wider horizons.  There was the world outside the school--not
only the world of his home and Polchester but the world of London
and even of Paris--Paris where they bought Uncle Samuel's strange
pictures and ate frogs.

Nevertheless, this own immediate world with Staire in the middle of
it became, through the talk with Uncle Samuel, increasingly
dramatic.  Something was going to happen and that soon.  Uncle
Samuel had advised that the matter should be settled and it was
GOING to be settled!

The first sign of his renewed vigour was his exceedingly abrupt
treatment of Gauntlet.

Gauntlet, coming into the Study smiling his polite smile, said:

"Well, where have you been all the afternoon?"

"With my uncle," Jeremy answered shortly.

"Oh well, you needn't be shirty about it.  There was a house
practice on."

"I know."

"Didn't they kick up a row about your not playing?"

"Llewellyn let me off."

"Oh . . .  Staire and I went down specially to see you play."

"It was a loss for you, wasn't it?  Where's my French grammar?
You've boned it, Gauntlet.  You're always pinching my books."

"No, I haven't.  I'll lend you mine, if you like."

"I don't want your dirty book."

Gauntlet smiled--a maddening smile to Jeremy.  It implied
superiority in social status, wisdom and self-control.  It also
implied secret knowledge and the general opinion of an invisible
world that Jeremy Cole was a blithering young ass.

Enraged by this smile Jeremy advanced so close to Gauntlet that
waistcoat buttons were touching.

He then declared himself as follows:

"Look here, Gauntlet, don't you flatter yourself that I don't know
the dirty game you've been playing this term, pretending to be my
friend and talking against me all the time behind my back, with
Staire and Baldock and the others.  You're a dirty sneak, that's
what you are; and at the end of the term either you move out of
this Study or I do.  I'm not afraid of you or of Staire either.  I
know all the dirty lies your lot have been spreading about me and
the Dormouse, and you know jolly well I never touched the kid.  I
know you've tried to spoil me with everyone, but you haven't
succeeded and you won't, either.  And if I have any more of your
cheek you'll know it.  And you can tell Staire from me that he'll
hear from me one of these days and jolly soon too."

After this he sat down to his French Grammar and Gauntlet, sniffing
defiance, left the room.


2


The next thing that happened was the House practice on Saturday and
the game, unimportant though it was in itself, had important
consequences.

Jeremy, secure as he was, without possible rival, for his place as
scrum-half in the House Team, had been taking these practice games
very lightly.  But now, because he had been playing for the Second
and because Llewellyn had been decent about letting him off the
other day, he determined to play his very best.  And he did.

It was a day on which there happened to be no other very important
games, therefore there were quite a number of spectators behind the
ropes.  Then Llewellyn had arranged that to balance the teams the
best forwards should play the best backs.  The result of this was
that Jeremy had in front of him a set of forwards who would have
disgraced Falstaff's recruiting squad.  A more miserable lot of
screwy, mangy, knock-kneed, back-bent and lily-livered warriors
Jeremy had never in all his life seen.  As a pack they would be
driven all over the field!  As everyone knows, half-backs, however
brilliant they may be, have little chance behind a hopelessly
beaten pack.  But this afternoon, strangely enough, the opposite of
the apparently inevitable occurred.

Whether it was that sheer terror drove them to mighty deeds or that
having nothing to lose in reputation they flung all caution to the
sea breezes or whether, as Jeremy himself (not as a rule conceited)
felt, that he fired them with a kind of divine frenzy, the fact is
that they played as never in their little lives before, and gave
Llewellyn twice the problem in choosing his House Pack that he
would normally have had.

It may be that Jeremy did, indeed, have something to do with this.
In after-days, looking back with all his later International
glories thick upon him, he was inclined to wonder whether he ever
again played such a game as this.  The new self-confidence that
Uncle Samuel had given him, the sense that he had nothing to lose,
the knowledge that Llewellyn, a member of the School First, was
there watching him and would report certain things that during the
last weeks Steevens had taught him, all these factors contributed.

He played, indeed, that day a game that was, at any rate thirty
years ago, a new game among schoolboys, a far more open game, not
contenting himself merely with going down to the scrums and getting
the ball out to his fellow half, but opening the game out for the
three-quarters by his own breaks through, and, in fact, in the last
ten minutes of the game scoring himself two tries.

In any case, whether orthodox or no, it was a glorious afternoon.
He was conscious of nothing save the rapture and ecstasy of the
play.  He seemed to know exactly where the ball would be long
before the ball itself knew.  He was unaware of kicks or bruises,
pains or penalties.  His body seemed to be made of some divine
ether, an immortal body such as only the gods in Olympus know.
Excited though he was, his brain was cool and clear, his eyes
everywhere at once, his short legs of iron and yet swift about the
ground, his hands so safe that no ball was too difficult to take.
Such divine days come but seldom in a lifetime, but when they are
there, how inevitable and right they seem!  Why should it not be
always like this?  How simple and natural!  What child's play!
What heavenly ease and ecstatic natural rhythm!  Alas, the gods are
jealous, and allow us such joys only to snatch them abruptly from
us and prove to us the mere mortals that we are!


     . . .  So fell Ilium
     and the mystic towers
     of the immortal Gods! . . .


At half-time, sucking a lemon, there was more drama for him.
Parlow was there behind the ropes, watching the game!  But just now
even Parlow seemed unimportant--a stout, red-faced man like other
red-faced men!

Those two tries at the end were worth a lifetime!  The first was
scarcely intended.  He had snatched the ball from the feet of the
scrambling forwards, had looked for Ewart, the other half, failed
to find him, and had dashed through on his own.  Finding himself
behind the goal line he had planted the ball there!

On the second occasion, only a minute before Time, seized by some
kind of Demon he had run three-quarters of the field, easily eluded
the stumbling back and trotted behind the goal posts at his ease!

There was glory for you!  But had it been right?  Ought scrum-
halves to be doing the work of three-quarters?  In such a game it
scarcely mattered; nevertheless, as, covered with mud (the field
had in the last quarter been a morass) he left the ground, he had a
secret blinding vision of the possibilities that opening the game
might mean!

Climbing the hill he almost ran into Parlow.  He fancied that the
master wanted to speak to him, but he swerved, pretended that there
was mud in his eye, and, his head up, went on his way.  Silly, but
it gave him pleasure!

Then, as he crossed Coulter's, he found Llewellyn at his side:

"When you've changed like to come in and have some tea?"

"Thanks awfully!"

Yes, things were moving. . . .


3


As he was having his shower in the changing room and shrieking
repartees, more or less brilliant, to various friends, Leeson
walked through.  He stopped by Jeremy, who was maidenly conscious
of his nudity and then reassured--"It isn't anything funny to him
seeing anyone stripped."

"Well, Cole," said Leeson (and before everyone too).  "That was
like your old style again.  Fine game."

Jeremy grinned and then choked because the water tumbled down his
throat.

"Get any bruises?" Leeson asked, looking at his brown stocky body.

"No, sir."

"Good.  I see you're down for the First Match against Odell's, next
Wednesday."

Oh, was he?  Splendid.  He could have hugged Leeson.

"Play as you did to-day and you'll keep your place."

"Thank you, sir."

Leeson passed on and there was a shrill chorus of:  "Good for you,
Stocky. . . ."  "Ripping game!"  "You give Odell's socks!"

Then, to complete his happiness, Jumbo came in.  He pretended to be
looking for no one in particular but Jeremy knew that he was, in
reality, looking for him--and, suddenly, all the restraint that
there had been between himself and Jumbo during the last weeks had
vanished; they were just as they used to be, and Jeremy knew, as he
looked at his chubby, ugly, rather stupid face that he liked him
better than anyone else in the world--except of course Uncle Samuel
and, well, Ridley . . . but could you be fond of a boy to whom you
had never even spoken?

Jumbo had been present at the game and was, of course, bursting
with pride about it, but was he going to say so?  Not he.

"Not bad for a kid," he said.  "But the Stripes were rotten.
Anyone could have run through them."

"Bet you couldn't."  Jeremy was struggling with his collar and his
face was purple, his words strangled.

"Bet I could, if they'd play me."  There was a chorus of derisive
laughter from the crowd upon whom Jeremy, hotly defending his
friend, turned.

"All right.  Jumbo plays better footer than any of you do."

They walked away together, arm in arm.

"Come and have tea," said Jumbo.  "I've got a cake."

Jeremy felt a criminal.

"Oh, isn't it rot?  I can't.  Llewellyn's asked me."

Llewellyn!  Jumbo, like many another humble friend of the rising
great, had to check both soreness and jealousy.  He succeeded
manfully.  "I say!  Fancy Llewellyn asking you!"

"It's only because of the football," Jeremy explained airily.  He
was nicer, then, to Jumbo than he had ever been in all their days
together before, trying to explain, without saying anything about
it, that all the Llewellyns in the world could be cast into the
depths of the sea for one small whim of Jumbo's.

And Jumbo felt this and went away comforted.

Llewellyn's study showed on every side evidences of the æsthetic
Corner.  Instead of the mess that most studies offered you,
everything here was of extreme tidiness.  The walls were a pale
cream, there were some etchings in dark frames (although Jeremy had
not at that time the slightest idea of what an etching might be),
there was a white bookcase that held books with gleaming bindings,
and there was a rough, white bowl filled with amber-coloured
chrysanthemums.

In the midst of this refinement the large, clumsy and broken-nosed
Llewellyn looked a little out of place, but everyone knew that what
Corner wished was law.  Of Corner Jeremy was frankly terrified.  He
looked so remote and superior and elegant--not with Staire's
elegance.  He was not, as Jeremy, in spite of his tender years,
thoroughly recognized, trying to impress anybody.  He was simply
himself--and his aloofness was majestic.

A very small fag was making tea.  Llewellyn greeted him with his
accustomed lazy roar.

"Hullo, Cole!  Come along in!  Take a pew.  Damned good game of
yours to-day."

Jeremy sat down.  He had never been invited by a prefect to tea
before, indeed it was but a short while since he had been even as
that small fag making the tea, and making it badly at that.

"What did you think of the game?" Llewellyn magnificently asked
him.  Jeremy, endeavouring to meet Llewellyn on his own high
ground, intimated that in his opinion the forwards on his side were
better than might have been expected.

"They damned well were," Llewellyn answered.  "I couldn't believe
my eyes.  Rabbits like Forster and Lewdo and Munnings and Frankau
stuck it like anything.  You got them all going.  Oh yes, you did.
No doubt of it. . . .  Have some jam. . . .  Blast your eyes (this
to the fag), do you call this tea?  The water wasn't boiling."

The fag, who was some two feet in height, his face crimson with
bending over the fire, but no alarm in his soul, because he knew
his Llewellyn, blamed the kettle.

"You see," Llewellyn amiably continued, "you get a damned good pair
of halves and the game's half won.  That's what I'm always telling
them.  If they'd stick to you and Steevens for the school halves
all the term, instead of all this chopping and changing, then we'd
know where we are.  What the hell does it matter if a man has an
off-day?  Everyone has an off-day, sometimes.  They're playing you
on Wednesday, though."

Jeremy modestly acknowledged the honour.

"Well, you play your damnedest.  Odell's are no class.  We ought to
beat them easy."

"Yes," replied Jeremy, as grown-up as he could muster.

He was conscious, desperately, of Corner, who sat there taking, it
seemed, no interest in the conversation, his long, thin body lying
back in the chair, eating bread and jam, his eyes on the ceiling.

Llewellyn was thoroughly accustomed to his friend's indifference,
so, sitting on the table that creaked beneath him and swinging his
big legs, he held forth:

"You know I'm keener on the House Team than the School this year.
Don't tell anyone I said so, but all the same, we've got a good
chance of winning the cup."  He dropped his voice.  "You know what
it is, young Cole; the House wants bucking up and it would do it no
end of good to win the Rugger Cup.  Things haven't been going too
well this term, what with that kid running away and all.  We're a
pretty slack lot at the top of the House.  I'm as bad as any--and
there's got to be a change.  It's all very well lamming chaps'
backsides for being late for games, but what's that compared with
all the row going on in Lower School, and chaps like you and Staire
quarrelling?  Mind you, I haven't asked you in to tea just to jaw
you.  That would be a rotten trick.  But I reckon that in another
year's time you and Staire are going to be two of the most
important fellers in the House, and you ought to be thinking of
that.  What's all the row about, anyway?"

Jeremy looked Llewellyn in the face.  He liked him.  He could tell
him just how things were.  He did.  He explained that he and Staire
"couldn't stick one another and never would"; that he hadn't wanted
a "row" and had done everything possible to keep out of one; that
in all probability it wasn't so much Staire's responsibility as
that of his followers, Crumb and Baldock; and that anyway he hadn't
had anything to do with the flight of the Dormouse, whom he had
never touched and had scarcely spoken to.

"Yes, that's all right," said Llewellyn, rather awkwardly.  "I
don't want to preach and Lord knows I don't mean to, but you and
Staire are just beginning to be important in the House and the
House means more than your private feelings.  Oh, I'm a fine one to
talk, I am, when I've just slacked around and played Rugger and
never done anything for the House to speak of; but I've only got a
year left now, and I'm damned sorry I've mucked up my time so.  I
can look back and see the mistakes I've made.  That's why I'm
telling you.  You'll be a swell at Rugger next year and be having a
first-class time and it will be damned easy to slack, just as I've
done.  But you shouldn't.  You'll be sorry if you do.  See what I
mean?"

"Yes," said Jeremy.  He saw.

"Why don't you and Staire have a scrap?  Chaps always feel better
after a scrap."

Jeremy nodded his head eagerly.  "It's a jolly good idea," he said.

"Staire's not a funk, is he?"

"Rather not."

"Well, you have a scrap and I'll see that Leeson doesn't
interfere."

Into the middle of this bellicose conversation came the languid,
lazy voice of Corner.

"You've got an uncle who's a painter, haven't you?" he asked.

"Yes," said Jeremy.

"What does he paint?"

"Oh, sheep mostly--sheep and trees."

"I'd like to see one of his paintings."

"I've got one I could show you," said Jeremy.

"Bring it along some time."

It was time to go.  An important thing had happened during this
half-hour, something of much greater importance than his talks with
Leeson.  Llewellyn had accepted him as a friend, had told him,
brought him into his world and made him a citizen there.  The House
and her fortunes were something real to him, as they had never been
before.  And then, coming out of Llewellyn's Study he did a funny
thing.  He reacted in precisely the opposite direction.  Obeying
some impulse that he didn't at the time understand he turned down
the passage into the Lower Common Room.

He had scarcely been there during the term and when he had been it
was to look for somebody, just to push his head inside and go away
again.

But now he wanted to go back as one of themselves.  He wanted to
prove to himself, perhaps, that he didn't, as yet, belong to
Llewellyn and his friends, or, still further, to show, under the
influence of Uncle Samuel's wider horizon, that he belonged to
nobody, that he was a free citizen of all the world.

He felt embarrassment as he entered.  The long room was filled with
boys, even as he had always remembered it.  It was like a camp of
warriors in one of their off-hours--boys reading, boys ragging,
boys quarrelling, boys writing letters, their chins dug into the
paper, boys in a solid group round the fire discussing some matter
with the grave faces of old men, boys standing on their heads, boys
lying flat on their backs on the dusty floor for no apparent reason
at all, boys shouting meaninglessly, as though they must let the
air out of their lungs, boys fat and thin and tall and short, and
over them all and through them and under them a babel of noise, of
shrieks and yells and screams . . . the infants of Leeson's Lower
School disporting themselves.

No one, at first, paid Jeremy much attention.  He had come in
searching for somebody or something and would presently go away
again.  He didn't belong to them any longer.  To the new boys of
that term he was already like a visitant from another planet.

In his own heart he was loving the racket and rough-and-tumble.
Only a short while back he had been a leader of it all,
understanding its moods and sensations, pulling it, unconsciously,
first this way and then that, happy as a young animal, taking no
thought for the morrow, living entirely in the moment.

He would like to be back there again, as only a few months ago he
had been.  But he knew that he could not.  He had moved on.

He joined the crowd by the fireplace.  "Hullo, Saunders," he said.
"Hullo, McCanlis!"  To the boys of that period the immediate event
was the thing, and the immediate event just then in regard to
Stocky Cole was the game that he had played that afternoon in the
House Practice.  Those that had not witnessed it had heard of it.

Way was made for him by the fire and two minutes later he was
talking away as though he had never left the Lower School.  The
atmosphere settled about him like a magic spell, the crackle of the
fire, the old black beams of the fireplace with all the names
scratched on to the wood, his own among the others, the noise on
every side of him, the cosiness and warmth and happiness.  He was
happy as a king.

They very soon forgot that he was not one of themselves and
continued their discussion, which was around the old, old question
as to whether the Lower School was treated with proper respect or
no.  And as had so often been the case before, the general
conclusion was--that it wasn't.

Saunders, a long and lanky boy, with red hair, was the principal
rebel and he had a great deal to say.  Where would the School be
without its Lower School?  Simply nowhere at all.  Who supported
all the games, turned out in force at the matches, cheered at the
concerts?  The Lower School.  Without the industrious and active
fagging of the Lower School where would the prefects be?  Why,
nowhere at all.  Moreover, where was the food for future heroes?
Where the sportsmen and brilliant brains of the future?  Where but
in the Lower School?

Suppose the Lower School were to leave in a body and troop off into
the sea, never to be in evidence again--would not the School tumble
utterly to pieces?  Of course it would.

But was the School, in general, sufficiently aware of these
undoubted facts?  It was not.  Did the School do anything for the
Lower School, grant it special privileges or show it unexpected
favours?  Never!  On the contrary the Lower School was crushed,
inhibited, stamped upon, deprived of its energy and vigour (the
noise at that moment in the room might to an unprejudiced observer
seem to give the lie to this statement).  What then was to be done
about it?  What steps should be taken?  Who would try to raise up
the Lower School to the place where it ought to be?

Saunders pausing for lack of breath, everyone joined in at once and
it was quickly evident that there were two parties here and that
they were bitterly at war with one another.

These two parties were, in fact, the two old ones of the Sheep and
the Goats; but like many another feud in history, the original
cause of the quarrel was forgotten (the private struggle between
Staire and Cole had quite sunk into the background).

Unfortunately the dispute became almost instantly personal.
Saunders, who inherited from his father, a member of Parliament, a
gift of oratory, was considered by many present a little above
himself and far too fond of the sound of his own voice, and of this
he was at once informed.  Who was he, anyway, to lay down laws for
the Lower School and speak as though he owned the place?  On which
someone else retorted that he had as good a right as any dirty Goat
anyway, and on this there followed a chorus of Baas and then on
that an outburst of groans intended to represent the familiar cry
of the goat. . . .

Someone pushed someone else, someone caught someone round the neck.
A movement became general.

It was now that Jeremy perceived that he was out of his element.  A
year ago, yes, even six months back he would have joined in the
fray with a hearty happiness.  Now it seemed to him foolish and all
about nothing.  He slipped away from the fireplace.  The rest of
the room, attracted by the noise of the dispute, were hurrying
towards the fire, shouting, scrambling over tables, sprawling over
forms, laughing with the lust of battle.

No one noticed Jeremy.  He had almost reached the door when a small
boy tumbled into him.

"Hullo!" said Jeremy.  "Look out!"  Then he saw that it was the
Dormouse, but the Dormouse very different from a week or two
before, the Dormouse vociferous, Dormouse vociferans, Dormouse
joyfully militant.

The Dormouse saw him and stopped dead.  "Hullo!" he said
sheepishly, colouring to the very roots of his fair hair.

The boys were, both of them, embarrassed.

"How are you getting on?" said Jeremy gruffly.

The Dormouse muttered something.  He was staring at Jeremy with all
his eyes.

"Pretty decent?" Jeremy asked.

"All right, thanks," said the Dormouse.

"Like it here now?"

"Oh, it's all right."

"Playing footer?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

(The Lower School games were such a scramble of minute boys
tumbling hither and thither that to be clear as to which part of
your job you represented was often a problem--more perhaps for the
onlooker than the participant.)

The Dormouse was clear enough.

"Half-back," he said.

"Half-back!  What, scrum-half?"

"Yes!"

"Oh, Lord, I must come and see you play.  I could give you some
tips."

"Thanks awfully."

"Whose form are you in?" Jeremy painfully continued.

"Martin's."

"Is he decent?"

"Yes, thanks."

"Will you get your move?"

"I don't know."

There was a pause.  The Dormouse was gazing as though, did he
remove his eyes for a moment, Jeremy would disappear.

"Everything's all right now then," Jeremy said at last.

"Yes, thanks."

He smiled.  Decent kid.  He'd like to give him a few tips about
playing half-back.  He . . .

He looked up and saw that Staire, Baldock at his side, was only a
step away.

"Look at Stocky Cole making up to the small kids," Staire said,
then moved on as though Jeremy were not there.

Wild furious hatred blazed in Jeremy's heart.  It seemed to lift
him off his feet with its sudden energy, carrying him mid-air.

He turned and hit Staire on the mouth.

"You beastly swine," he said.  Staire turned.

"All right," Jeremy cried.  "Will you fight?"

Staire, very white, nodded.

"Yes--you little cad."

Jeremy waited, then, as Staire made no further movement, nodded.
He was breathless with a burning fiery rage.

"Behind Runners," he said, using the old traditional word.

Slowly he went out.



CHAPTER XIV

THE WAR OF THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS (III)

THE FIGHT


1


"Behind Runners!"

How many times in old days the challenge was sounded in those two
words?  How many old Crale boys are there alive to-day, paunchy and
rubicund and bald, spindle-shanked and bent and white-haired,
judges and clergymen, soldiers and bank managers, crossing sweepers
and poets, comedians and tragedians, tramps and gipsies, artists
and misers, in whose ear were you to whisper those two words they
would not sound like a trumpet echoing from a distant golden world?

To-day "Runners," that old corner of stone and rubble looking like
nothing but a broken down Fives Court, with its splendid view clear
out over field and wood and sea, is, I believe, no more, pulled
down with much else to make way for grand laboratories and museums
and what-not!

To-day also I believe the refined feelings and careful supervision
of our twentieth-century civilization looks on such exploits as
barbarous and immoral.  The worse for modern education say I!

How many ill-feelings and mean resentments and cowardly, sneaking
treacheries did those scraps behind Runners blow to thin air!  How
many lingering feuds and half-baked grudges did that challenge of
fists settle, once for all, never to be considered again!  Ah,
well!  Other times other manners!  Whether better or worse in this
generation of anti-moralizing who dare say?

To many of us the name of Runners is enough for a recital of many
another famous name!  Clark v. Bostock, which went to sixteen
rounds; Hunter v. McCormick, when Hunter was floored for eight and
rose up to win the day; Russell v. Tempest, when two Houses joined
in the final fray--eighty boys were engaged, thirty of whom had to
go to the Infirmary; Sunter v. Glostock, when Glostock fought on
and won after both his eyes had been closed.

Yes, Runners had seen some sights and is doubtless still telling
tales in the ghostly world of bricks and mortar!

The traditions about the meetings were fast and firm and never to
be varied as to referee, seconds, time and the rest.  Time in the
winter was 2.30 and in the summer five o'clock.  The referee was
appointed from another House than the combatants'; each boy chose
two seconds.  There was also a recorder, who entered all details of
the fight in a large book.  The Senior House Prefects of the boys
concerned were always informed of the coming event.  Only the boys
of the Houses involved were allowed to be present.  The House
Masters always knew of the affair, but it would have been
considered the unforgivable breach of all Crale etiquette did a
master intervene.  Once, in the early 'nineties, a master had so
intervened and it had never been forgiven him.

No Lower School boys were permitted the privilege of fighting.


2


Jeremy's own private feelings, now that the challenge was
delivered, were mixed, as perhaps, if the truth were known, the
feelings of all brave duellists since the world began have been
mixed.  He was relieved that the crisis had at length arrived and
he hoped to issue from it with sufficient glory.  During his time
at Crale he had picked up some boxing from old Fox, the school
sergeant, and, without being brilliant, had been adequate.  He was
plucky and enduring.  He had, however, reason to believe that
Staire was much more than this.  The common rumour was that Staire
was very fine indeed.

But of the actual fight Jeremy was not greatly afraid.  He wasn't
going to be disgraced, however finely Staire fought.  What worried
him was lest the authorities should scowl upon this adventure and
so spoil his chance of First Fifteen Colours.  Moreover there was
something palpably ironic in this climax to his earnest endeavours
to prove to the world that he was a peaceful citizen.  He had gone
back to Crale that term with the most virtuous intentions that any
boy had ever resolved--he was to be hard-working, peace-loving, a
model of decorum.  In actual truth this had been the stormiest term
he had ever known at Crale and all, as it seemed to him, without
any fault of his own.  He hated Staire, of course, but he had been
quite willing to let sleeping dogs lie.  Only Staire was not a
sleeping dog!  The very sight of his supercilious face stirred the
worst aggravations and hostilities in Jeremy--and it was to be
feared that even a fight behind Runners was not going to cure that
irritation!

A thing that he had not calculated upon nor known that it would
oppress him was the pause.

The day of his challenge had been a Saturday; the fight was to be
on Monday.

The news of it had, of course, become at once the whole House's
property and the excitement about it was intense.  There had been
no official fight in Leeson's for two years, at least, and that
alone would have given the event thrill enough; but here was the
climax to a feud that had already, by reason of its dramatic
incidents, stirred general attention.

Jeremy chose his backers--Jumbo and a boy called Caine--that
Saturday evening and they, with solemn visage and most official
mien, discussed details with Staire's backers, Baldock and a boy
Mumpus.  Forrester, a fellow of Haggard's House, well known for his
fighting knowledge and sporting impartiality, was selected as
referee.

Then it was that Jeremy passed into the oddest world of doubt and
alarm and secret foreboding.  His character had always known
strange twists and turns that seemed not to belong to his stocky
body and his practical common sense.  Again and again he had been
aware of surroundings not seen with the naked eye, but more
important than the visible ones.  Before coming to Crale he had
known mood after mood, when he had slipped away from all his
natural interests and had started out on a search that was lonely
and ill-defined but commanding and inevitable.  The life of an
English public school does not, as a rule, help the imaginative
side of a boy's life, and during these three years at Crale Jeremy
had been held too rigidly to a practical life to leave much room
for an imaginative one; but often moments came, in the middle of
school, of games, idle noisy ragging in the Lower School, when his
attention would be held by some sound or passing colour or idle
suggestion and he would stand lost, bewildered, as though he were a
foreigner in a far land.

Now, although he was not frightened of this fight with Staire, he
was conscious of a mood that translated the whole episode into
something terrifying and ominous--not the fight itself but
something beyond the fight and infinitely more important.

All Sunday he was bewildered, as though he were in a dream.  And he
WAS in a dream.  Nothing was real to him--neither masters nor boys
nor the Chapel services nor the walk that he had with Jumbo in the
afternoon.

He tried to tell Jumbo something of this, but of course Jumbo
didn't understand.

"Wouldn't it be funny," he said, as they stood out on the lank
naked moor behind the school, "if, when I hit Staire, he wasn't
there and there was a big black nigger there instead, naked and
shiny and tall as a tree?"

"What rot you do talk," said Jumbo.

"No, but why should Staire be there?  Perhaps I'm not there
either."

"Oh, stow it," said Jumbo uncomfortably.  "You haven't talked like
this for ages.  What you've got to do is to give Staire one in the
eye, so that he can't see straight.  Then you've got him."

"Suppose I hit Staire," Jeremy went on, "and he turned into a
rabbit and then he ran away and hid in my bed and bit me in the
middle of the night."  Jeremy himself laughed at this, but it
didn't after all seem so impossible.

"Suppose," he went on, "everyone had two noses and only one eye.
Why shouldn't they?  They might just as well."

"Oh rot--do shut up!" said Jumbo.

"Suppose that small cloud came down and rolled down the road and
got bigger and bigger and swallowed you up and then went back into
the sky again, with you inside it.  You would look a fool, wouldn't
you?"

"I don't know where you think of these things," said Jumbo angrily.
"I wish you wouldn't. . . ."

"Suppose . . ." said Jeremy.


3


The matter was not passing without the attention of the
authorities.  Llewellyn went to see Leeson.

"There's going to be a fight on Monday, sir--Staire and Cole."

"Oh dear, it's come to that, has it?"

"Yes, sir.  Think it's a good thing, sir.  Clear the air a bit!"

"They've been scrapping all the term, haven't they?"

"Yes, sir."

"Pity.  They're both decent boys and ought to mean a lot to the
House later on."

"Yes, sir.  That's why I think it's better for them to have a fight
now."

"Do you, really?  Do you think there's anything in that theory?"

"Sure of it, sir.  Know from my own feelings."

"Well, I won't interfere. . . .  What's your opinion of young Cole,
Llewellyn?"

"I think he's a very decent kid, sir.  Not like the ordinary kid.
He's a jolly good footballer."

"Yes, when he likes.  But there's something odd in him somewhere.
He's not the ordinary boy, not by any means.  Something in him
sometimes secretive and reserved."

"Yes, sir?"  Psychology was outside Llewellyn's territory--he left
that to Corner.

"Well, I won't interfere," said Leeson.

But he went to see HIS chief; not to ask his opinion, because Daime
always preferred his House Masters to settle such matters for
themselves, but merely to tell him of it.

The Camel, his long legs stretched in front of him, was lying back,
smoking a briar of enormous size and reading Shakespeare, "Henry
IV, Part I."

"Listen to this, Leeson," he cried, his thin, bony features
stirring with excitement and he read:


Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.

No, I'll be sworn I make as good use of it as many a man doth of a
death's head or a memento mori.  I never see thy face but I think
upon hell-fire, and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in
his robes, burning, burning.  If thou wert any way given to virtue,
I would swear by thy face; my oath should be "By this fire, that's
God's angel."  But thou art altogether given over; and wert indeed,
but for the light in thy face, the son of utter darkness, when thou
rann'st up Gadhill in the night to catch my horse, if I did not
think thou hadst been an ignis fatuus or a ball of wild-fire,
there's no purchase in money.  O, thou art a perpetual triumph, an
everlasting bonfire-light.  Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in
links and torches, walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern
and tavern; but the sack that thou hast drunk me would have bought
me lights as good cheap at the dearest chandler's in Europe.  I
have maintained that salamander of yours with fire any time this
two-and-twenty years; God reward me for it!


"Lord, there's genius, there's magnificence, there's God's plenty--
what do I bother with boys for?  Why, in Heaven's name, don't I
retire to a cottage in Cumberland, drink sack and live on
Shakespeare and Hazlitt?  Boys, boys . . .   Well, what's the
matter?  Not that I'm not glad to see you.  Sit down somewhere and
I'll read you some more.  Have a drink.  And they say Shakespeare
was Bacon.  Old Bacon write that kind of thing!  Lord, the fools
there are in the world. . . .  Yes, and what's the matter?"

"Nothing's the matter," said Leeson.  "I thought I'd look in on
you.  Oh yes--my Lower School is in a fine flutter of excitement
about a fight arranged, I'm informed, between young Cole and
Staire."

Daime put down his book and puffed at his pipe.

"A fight?  What about?"

"They've been at loggerheads all the term.  I remember we talked
about Cole the other day."

"Yes.  What's the trouble?"

"I don't know.  A kind of Doctor Fell feeling, I fancy.  My Lower
boys have been upset all term over it.  Young Morgan's escapade was
connected with it."

"Well, if that's the way it is it won't do them any harm to have it
out.  Do the Prefects know about it?"

"Yes, it was Llewellyn who came and told me."

"They'll see there's no riot.  We won't interfere."

And then they finished "Henry IV, Part I."


4


I won't pretend to compare this affair with the immortal combat
between Bill Neate and the Gasman, but I fancy that had the mighty
recorder of that great fight been present at this little one he
might have found something fine to say about it.  I wish that he
had been there; his ghost may have been.  I cannot but fancy that
Hazlitt's spirit misses little of the sporting kind.  What things
he must have seen during the last hundred years!  Even in these
degenerate days there have been men of whom he must approve--the
Dohertys and Wilding, big W. G. and little Jimmie Wilde, Davies and
Kershaw, Hobbs and Macartney--his ghost is kept busy I warrant.

This particular Monday was cold and windy, with a shivering
suspicion of rain in the air, but by two of the clock the whole of
Leeson's Lower School were there, behind Runners, keeping, although
there were no ropes, mathematically outside the square dedicated by
solemn tradition to the ceremony.  By quarter-past two there was a
very honourable sprinkling of older boys also.

Over everything there was a hush.  No one spoke above a whisper,
because part of the tradition was that the fight was absolutely
forbidden and did any authority know of it there would be terrible
penalties for everyone--and this although the smallest boy present,
possibly the Dormouse who, pressed in the forefront, was as deeply
agitated as though he was himself to be one of the combatants--was
aware absolutely that the authorities DID know and were passing by
on the other side.

So there was a deathly hush and through and over this the boom and
splatter of the sea, stirred to fury by the wind, broke and
thundered.

When the school clock in its crazy, hiccuppy fashion (they have a
fine, solemn, sober clock nowadays) sounded the half-hour the
fighters were in the ring.  It was tradition that only shorts,
socks and running shoes were worn, so there was Jeremy, seated on a
precarious kitchen chair, a great coat over his naked shoulders,
and there opposite him, on a similar chair, was Staire, a great
coat over HIS shoulders.  A shivery business for both of them.
Behind Jeremy, with towels and most serious expressions, were Jumbo
and Caine.  Behind Staire, Baldock and Mumpus.  The most serious
and solemn by far, armed with a watch and a dinner bell, was the
referee, Forrester, a scraggy, long-limbed boy who lived only for
such events as these, and, so living, found life indeed worth
while.

In those fine days there were no boxing-gloves and no feeble
decision on points.  You fought until you won or until your backers
threw the sponge in for you or until the referee stopped the fight.
The rounds were of two minutes each.

To put it on record that at this particular moment Jeremy felt
happy would be to lie.

He was not a natural boxer, nor was he fond of fighting for
fighting's sake.  He could do fine things when in a rage, but
although, at this moment, he disliked Staire as deeply and
unrelentingly as it was in his power to dislike anyone, it was
difficult at that chilly instant, with the cold wind blowing over
his shoulders, to feel raging hatred and lust of revenge.  He was
worried, too, by the sea, which seemed both noisy and personal, as
though, beating up to his very feet, it were shouting at him:  "You
know you can't box!  You know you can't box!  Bang!  Bang!  Bang!"

And then behind the crowd, so serious and so silent, he had a
strange sentimental picture of his father and mother and aunt and
of his sisters Helen and Mary and Barbara, all tearfully imploring
him to come away and not allow himself to be hurt.

However, the tinkle of the dinner-bell swept the family into limbo
as he stepped across the grass, touched Staire's hand and--the
fight was started!

They made almost as startling a contrast, facing one another, as
did Bill Neate and the Gasman.  True, Jeremy was scarcely as Ajax
"with Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear," but his brown arms and
chest were thick and strong and he was sturdy enough on his short
legs.  Staire, on the other hand, was not unlike "Diomed, light,
vigorous, elastic, and his back glistened in the sun, as he moved
about like a panther's hide."  No question which was the handsomer
of the two.

No question either, I fear, as to the better fighter.  From the
first, every movement of Staire's showed that he knew his job.
Jeremy went in for him as though he would immediately annihilate
him; but Staire stepped back, Jeremy missed his stroke, Staire
turned, hit out with his right, tapped him on the cheek, stepped
away again, tapped him on the other cheek, and all this while his
fine supercilious face regarded his opponent scornfully, as though
calling the crowd to witness how easy a thing he had here.  And the
crowd, brutal as always, was quick to detect the difference between
the two, and at once was ready to mock Jeremy's clumsiness.

"Young Cole hasn't a chance," said some senior boy standing behind
the Dormouse--and the Dormouse's heart was of lead.

So the first round ended with Staire's elegant and aristocratic
hint of what he was going to do in another minute or two.

Back on his rickety chair, Jumbo and Caine, fanning him in the most
professional manner, whispered him earnest advice.  He was to go
right in and finish it, get Staire silly before he knew where he
was, go in and finish it. . . .  They didn't say so, but Jeremy
knew exactly what they meant, and that was, if he didn't finish
Staire very shortly, Staire would finish him.

Only too well he knew that to be so.  He wouldn't allow himself to
think, but the sea, tossing now at his very feet, was saying,
"You're going to be whacked!  You're going to be whacked!  You're
going to be WHACKED!"

Staire was better, yes far better, than he had expected.  He had
felt his own clumsiness a great deal more acutely than anyone in
the crowd had felt it.  Anyone who has gone into a fight and after
the first round realized that his opponent is greatly his superior
has felt exactly what Jeremy was feeling now.  Oddly enough, also,
this realization of Staire's superiority cooled some of his
dislike.  He MUST admire anyone who could box like that and he felt
in the most curious fashion that he would like to be one of
Staire's backers if HE were fighting someone else.

Nevertheless, when the dinner bell sounded again, he went in as
determined as ever--in fact more determined than at first--to push
in and win.  He started off, this time, with a lucky one and a
blissful feeling it was to know that he had stung Staire's nose and
made the blood flow.  Nice to feel the wet coolness of the blood on
the broken skin of his knuckles.  He heard someone call out, "Well
hit, Stocky!" and in a kind of glory he saw Uncle Samuel standing
in a cloud, shouting approval.  He had the sense, too, to move back
after his lucky blow and for a moment or two they both withdrew,
glaring at one another.  But now Jeremy realized his disadvantage
in lack of height and shortness of arm.  It seemed to be impossible
to get AT Staire, and larrikinwise he was for ever mounting higher
and higher.  Staire darted in and stung Jeremy's cheek again.  It
hurt this time and Jeremy had an impulse to go rushing wildly, with
his head forward as though he were a bull; but with a fearful
effort of restraint he pulled himself up and stood on guard.  But
again Staire penetrated his defence, hitting him just above the
left eye, and Jeremy's very wild return missed him.

Here the tinkle of the dinner bell most happily saved him.  He got
back to his chair, and now he was in a fearful rage.  He couldn't
hear a single thing that either Jumbo or Caine said to him.  They'd
HURT, those blows of Staire's, and now he must hurt back again.
Somehow he must get at Staire and knock his face in.  It didn't
matter what happened to himself, but he must knock Staire's face
into a pulp.  All the most primitive savagery was aroused in him,
and when the bell went for the third round he ran forward with no
thought of anything but that he must knock Staire's face in.

The result of this was that his guard was down and he was met at
once with a good straight blow between the eyes.  The firmament was
instantly crowded with gesticulating and jeering stars.  He reeled
and if Staire had hit him at once again he would have fallen, but
Staire's next blow missed him.  He had time to recover.  The stars,
like the Gadarene swine, swept down a steep place into the sea and
the ground that had been rocking like a switchback under him
steadied itself and belonged to his legs again.  But he felt sick
and bewildered, as though someone had taken an unfair advantage of
him.  During the rest of that round he succeeded in getting Staire
once more on the nose--the only portion of Staire's anatomy that he
seemed able to touch, and he avoided being hit seriously again.
But, as once more he sank into his rickety chair, he did feel that
it was all over with him and he realized that Jumbo and Caine felt
it too.

It was the first real fight of his life, and as every man of
experience will tell you, that first fight needs some grit.  What
worried him, so far as he could think at all, was that he had
forgotten every word that the old sergeant had ever told him.  He
couldn't remember a thing and the bump on his forehead seemed to be
swelling into a gigantic size, as though he were carrying a
mountain there.  Worst of all he hadn't, during that round, seen
Staire at all.  He had been fighting, as it seemed, a blind sky
whence, at some Olympian order, terrible blows descended.

The bell tinkled and once again he went forward, but this time
slowly.  He saw Staire clearly enough now, and, glory be, he was
bleeding at the nose.  But above that nose there was still the same
supercilious disdainful face, now more confident and superior than
ever it had been.  He ran right in on him, saw the high white cheek
quite close to him, swung a blow at it, missed it and in return
received a crunching one on the jaw that sent all his teeth dashing
together, seemed to sever his tongue in two and sent the crowd of
eager faces, the walls of Runners, the grey menacing sky toppling
on to his head.

He knew that he was down on his knees.  He heard someone from an
infinite distance saying "Three, Four, Five . . ."

Could he move?  He could not.  COULD he move?  Yes, he must.  He
commanded his body, which appeared now to have nothing at all to do
with himself, to obey him.  He rose, as he heard "Eight, Nine,"
cried above him.  He swayed.  Staire was coming for him again.  He
rolled rather than stepped aside, and, as he did so, feebly aimed a
blow.  Of course he missed but this gave him an instant's respite.
He stood simply, like a child having his first lesson, in an
attitude of defence.  His only desire, now, was to hold himself
together.  If he could only last until the bell went. . . .  If he
could only last. . . .  But he moved like someone in a dream and
strange wild thoughts were in his head, like "Two and two make
five," and "Three Blind Mice."

But, had he only known it, Staire was himself somewhat exhausted.
That earlier lucky blow of Jeremy's had shaken him badly and, like
many another stylist, he hadn't the power to finish a thing well
begun.  Had he found Jeremy's face again, then the fight would have
been over; but he waited just too long, feinted, danced on his toes
a little, aimed at Jeremy's right eye and missed and--the bell
went.

"Can you stick it?" Jumbo anxiously whispered.

"Course I can," Jeremy hoarsely muttered.  And then, clear from the
distance, came a small boy's voice:  "Go it, Stocky!  You've got
him beat!"

Jeremy heard that, although he didn't hear the derisive laughter
that followed it.  He had sense enough left him to know that it was
a lie, but it heartened him and seemed to call him together, as
though someone had picked up his pieces from different parts of the
field and presented them to him.  (He didn't know that it was the
Dormouse that had called out, nor did the Dormouse know that he had
said "Stocky," a piece of cheek that the intense excitement of the
moment excused.)

It was raining quite heavily now and the freshness of it in his
face helped him; moreover it made the grass slippery and this
hindered Staire's better and more practised foothold.  They pulled
forward his shorts and let the air blow through and they sponged
his face.  When the bell went yet once again he felt some fresh
life pulsing through him.  He must have been a fine sight then, one
eye closed and one side of his face swelling to lop-sided size, his
lip cut and bleeding badly.

Then a lucky thing occurred.  Somebody in the crowd gave a derisive
"Baa!"  That tightened him.  He would have the blood of the lot of
them.  They were laughing at him, were they?  He forgot his pains
and bruises.  His body stiffened, his knees sagged no longer.  With
his remaining eye he saw quite clearly Staire standing there, his
guard down, apparently waiting to be hit.

The fact was that Staire's backers had been telling him that the
fight was practically over, that all that was needed to finish it
was one good damaging blow, that Cole was completely finished and
didn't know where he was, as tottering as an old woman.  So Staire
stood choosing the place where young Cole should be hit.

And that was Jeremy's chance and he took it!  He tumbled in, most
unscientifically I fear, and caught Staire a Beautiful One between
the eyes.  Oh! what a Beautiful Blow that was!  It does indeed
deserve capital letters!  It crashed into Staire's face with all
the weight of Jeremy's strong young arm.  He staggered back,
surprise, horror and pain driving him to forget all thoughts of
defence, and Jeremy, now in a berserk rage of strong revenge and
lust, caught him another on the left eye, abruptly closing it, and
then yet another beautifully on the chin.

At that instant the crowd forgot all authority and tradition and
shouted again and again, the small boys' screams like the shrill
cries of birds alarmed.

Staire's knees sagged.  He raised one arm feebly.  Jeremy tumbled
right on him, pushed rather than struck him on the chest, and down
he went.

He lay, half raised himself, lay once more, got on to his knees
while Jeremy, panting, heaving, waited.  Then once more he sank
back covering his face with his hand and was counted out.

Less than a quarter of an hour had the fight lasted, but in that
brief chronicle of time the War of the Sheep and the Goats was for
ever ended.



CHAPTER XV

LIFE BEGINS TO-MORROW?


1


The fight was for some days the only topic among the Lower School,
at least in Leeson's--and even the senior body of the House was
stirred.

It had been a proper fight, no quarter given or intended, and young
Cole had shown amazing pluck.  The public school world is even more
fickle than the great world beyond it, and nothing lends authority
there like the fist.  Subtleties are at a discount--there is no
time for them and not much brain for them, either--but anyone who
can fight as Stocky Cole fought is somebody.  Not that Staire was
undervalued.  It was considered that he was the more elegant
fighter of the two and that the contest would certainly have been
his, had he not been a little too sure of himself.

And the Feud was at an end.  No more Sheep and no more Goats.
Stocky could have that picture by his old uncle on his table all
day and no one would say a word.

"After all," said Gauntlet, making as usual the best of two worlds,
"sheep do sometimes look sort of purple in a certain light--when
the sun's setting.  And Stocky's uncle must know.  He's been
painting for years."

Jeremy himself had a harder problem to settle.  He must speak to
Staire.  He hated to do it.  He would just as soon never see Staire
again.  But they would be meeting every day, in class and out of it
and there must be reconciliation, outward if not inward.  He had
been the victor, so he must make the advance.

Moreover, he had to confess that he liked Staire better since the
fight.  He had himself recovered from some of the self-inferiority
that he had felt so painfully before.  Ever since that glorious
blow, when his fist had so superbly crashed into Staire's face, he
had thought that he rather liked the fellow.  Never mind his
superior ways.  Now that he'd knocked him down he could disregard
them.  In addition to this Staire was an elegant fighter, very much
better than himself, Jeremy.  It was a piece of luck that he'd won
and so--he must speak to Staire.

On the very morning after the fight he met him coming down the
broad, stone steps out of Big School into Coulter's.  He stopped,
the bruise in the middle of his forehead blushing purple.

He held out his hand and Staire shook it--not very readily and a
little in the grandee fashion--but still he shook it.  Jeremy,
gruff in the voice and self-conscious because several boys were
passing, began:

"I'm sorry, Staire--all that rot . . . my fault."

Staire answered graciously:

"Yes, we were awfully idiotic. . . .  I've just made an awful
bloomer in the History paper--mixed up Anne of Cleves and Katherine
Parr.  How did you do?"

Oh well, if he didn't want to talk about it!

"Not so bad.  Only all that bit about the monasteries was
stinking."

"Yes, wasn't it?  See you're playing for the First to-morrow
against Odell's.  Congrats."

"Thanks, most awfully."

And so the matter was, superficially at any rate, closed.


2


He did, on the next day, play against Odell's and he did nothing
astonishing.

He was not in the most perfect trim, his head being yet very sore
and his body tired.  He and Steevens played behind completely
victorious forwards and that should have been very nice for them,
but the game was so desperately one-sided that it lost much of its
interest.

Nevertheless, it was pleasant playing with Steevens.

After the game there was alarming news.  It was just one of those
afternoons when you expect bad tidings, when the sky is grey and
grisly and a little wind, a little, mean, malicious, mischievous
wind, goes creeping from place to place, forebodings and
forewarnings in every tone of its whiny and fraudulent whisper;
when buildings are dark and forbidding, when chimneys blow their
smoke distressfully to heaven, when weather vanes moan, lights
gutter and forsaken leaves whirl disconsolately at the feet of
lamenting trees.  Doors bang and windows rattle, hedges are dark
and roads nakedly deserted.  Jeremy had just changed when Jumbo
came and said that he wanted to talk to him.

Now Jumbo was one of those friends of whom we all have a number,
the best-hearted in the world and the most unselfish.  But of their
unselfishness they make a burden, spending their lives in doing for
others things that others would much prefer not to have done for
them; making martyrs of themselves in causes which are really not
causes at all; being marvellously cheerful (and oh! the effort it
is!) when we would greatly prefer them to be naturally doleful;
forcing their relations and neighbours into comforts that their
relations and neighbours would prefer to do without; lamenting
their physical weariness and exhaustion but maintaining with a
brave smile that "they were managing to get along" in spite of
their trials; and telling you pieces of gloomy news with an air of
self-satisfied commiseration.

Of these are those orders of humans who come to you with those
fateful words, "I think you ought to know what people are
saying . . ." or "Do you think that you are altogether right
in trusting . . . ?"

The world in general pays heavily for its noble and unselfish
citizens--especially if they have but little sense of humour, as is
almost always the case.

Jumbo was in the process of developing into just such an unselfish
character--and this may be the reason why Jeremy had been finding
him a little difficult to deal with, of late.  It may be also that
Jumbo had that feeling--common to all of us, when our best friend
has just scored a great success--that now is the time to see that
he is not swollen-headed, that a little adverse treatment in the
middle of all this glory will do him no kind of harm.

In any case Jumbo's face was a long one and his tone lugubrious.

"What's up?" said Jeremy suspiciously.  He knew his Jumbo.

"I think you ought to know," began Jumbo, "what everyone is
saying."

"What's everyone saying?" asked Jeremy.

"That there's going to be the most awful row about the fight; that
the Camel's sent for Leeson and told him that he ought to be
ashamed of himself for allowing it, and that you and Staire are
going to be dropped on like anything."

"How do you mean," asked Jeremy, "dropped on?"

"Oh, I don't know.  They say you won't be allowed to play footer
any more this term."

"Not allowed to play?"  Jeremy was horrified.  Then, because he
knew his Jumbo, he pulled himself together.

"Who says?" he asked scornfully.

"Oh, everybody," answered Jumbo, rather vaguely.

"Everybody!  That isn't anybody," said Jeremy indignantly.  "WHO
was it?"

"Oh, some of the chaps," answered Jumbo, who was beginning to think
that perhaps he had gone too far.  "You know how they talk.  I dare
say there isn't anything in it."

"If there isn't anything in it what did you come and tell me about
it for?"

"All right, you needn't get waxy."

"I'm not waxy!"

"Yes, you are.  You're always waxy now."

"No, I'm not.  But it's sickening to tell a man something and then
not to have any reason for it."

"Well, they are saying it."

"Who are?"

"Oh, everybody."

This was hopeless and Jeremy went off, his head in the air.
Nevertheless he was alarmed--and most seriously.

There had not for a long time been a real fight at Runners and it
had been considerably discussed as to the views the authorities
would have about it.  After the last fight, between Morgan and
Dance more than a year and a half ago, it had been said that
another would never be allowed again, that the Camel held that
these fights belonged to the age of barbarism and that he would put
them down.

In the excitement before the battle and especially because he had
been definitely encouraged by Llewellyn, who was a school prefect,
Jeremy had lost sight of this aspect of the affair.  Now it came
before him with a dazzling suddenness.

In ordinary circumstances the danger would not have been very
great.  The end of the term was now only a fortnight distant and a
licking or "confinement to barracks" would not be a serious
penalty--but, as things actually were, it was a matter to him of
life and death.  It seemed to him, as he looked at it with a
schoolboy's exaggeration of immediate circumstances, as though the
whole future of his life was at stake.

Because, as the end of the term was only a fortnight away, so also
was the match against Callendar.

Now the two matches against Callendar, in the summer cricket and in
the winter football, were the two great sporting events of the
Crale year.  Callendar was the only great public school within any
real possible distance, geographically, of Crale.  Its records were
as fine as Crale's and for over sixty years these two schools had
fought out annually these two great struggles.

To play in the Callendar Match was the final ambition of every
Crale boy.  It meant not only your First Colours but a glorious
memory that would last your lifetime.  Certain of these games were
historic and to have played in them made yourself a historic
figure.

All Jeremy's attempted self-disciplines and anxieties this term had
hung round the Callendar game.  He had not, at the beginning of the
term, dared to admit to himself that he had any real chance of
playing, but as term had advanced it became clear that the
competition for scrum-halves was this term of a low average, that
his two rivals were neither of them very satisfactory.  Above all,
Steevens, who was certain of his place as stand-off-half, preferred
to play with him.  His luck had been in and out, but during the
last fortnight in the House Matches he had played well.

Until this new danger arose he had not realized how frantic his
ambition had become.  It was true that he had in all probability
four more football seasons at Crale, but it seemed to him in the
immediate press of the conditions that there would be no glory at
all in playing NEXT year or the year after.  Did he gain his cap
this season he would be one of the youngest boys ever capped at
Crale and he would, with all those other seasons before him, be
almost assured of his captaincy before he left the school.

Moreover, because of the happenings of this term, his temporary
disgrace, the behaviour of both Leeson and Parlow, it was urgently
necessary for him to re-establish himself.

Finally, Crale had been beaten by Callendar for the last two years.
Without undue conceit he was sure that himself and Steevens, as a
pair, could help Crale to victory as no other halves in the school
could.

Steevens did play better with himself as partner than with anyone
else, and Steevens, with his strange unorthodox brilliance, might
easily turn the scale in the school's favour.

And now, just as the football gods were beginning to realize this,
this other thing might slip in and prevent it.

Oh, if they were determined to punish him, let them choose any
other penalties than this!  He would suffer a hundred lickings,
confine himself to his own Study for ever, write out five thousand
lines rather than be deprived of the great chance of his life!

The awful thing was the uncertainty.  You could not tell what
people were thinking.  He watched the Camel anxiously in Chapel, to
see whether he were in disgrace, but the Camel never apparently
looked at him.  He invented a need for notebooks that he might go
to Leeson's study and mark his behaviour to him, but Leeson was
busy and had no time for more than a curt permission.

Every instant he expected some heavy hand to fall upon him and that
he would be led off to hear his sentence.

This began to dig into his nerves as nothing had since, as a tiny
kid, he had waited trembling for the visits of the Sea Captain.
His sleep deserted him, a thing unknown to him in all his life
before.

He woke at strange hours to lie there, seeing the others stretched
like corpses around him, to hear the sea restlessly warning him of
the worst, to think, as one does at those accursed hours, of all
his sins and misfortunes, of all the people who hated him, of all
the silly things he had done and the sillier things he was yet
likely to do.  At such a time it seemed to him that his doom was
certain, that he had no chance at all and that he would be for ever
marked out in a jeering world as the boy who missed his chance
because of a stupid fight.

But why did they not pronounce their horrible sentence?  Why did
they leave it hanging above his head in this cruel fashion?  They
were worse than the Inquisition torturers of whom he had read in
"Westward Ho!" and other glorious works.

At last he could endure his suspense no longer and resolved to go
and ask Llewellyn for the fatal truth.

He was shy about this.  Llewellyn might fancy that he was taking
advantage of the invitation to tea--but he must go.

So he went.  And, poking his head inside the door, discovered
Corner in there alone.

"Oh . . ." he said foolishly.

Corner, who was leaning up against the bookcase staring into
vacancy, said, without moving his head:

"Well?"

This was not very encouraging.

"Oh," said Jeremy again.  "I say, is Llewellyn here?"--a foolish
remark because Llewellyn most obviously wasn't.

"No," said Corner.  "Do you want him?"

"Silly ass," thought Jeremy.  "Of course I do or I wouldn't have
asked for him."

"Yes," he said.

"He'll be back in a minute," Corner said, without moving.  Then
slowly he turned his head and staring at Jeremy as though he were
beholding him for the first time in his life, said:

"I say--have you ever read any Keats?"

"Any what?" asked Jeremy, bewildered.  He was now well within the
room.

"Any Keats.  Poetry."

"Oh, no," said Jeremy relieved.

"I thought you might have."  Corner looked sourly disappointed.
"You're the fellow who's got an uncle who paints, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"So I thought you might have read Keats too."

Jeremy said nothing and an awkward silence crept about the room.
Into this most happily the stout Llewellyn plunged.  "Hullo!" he
cried, seeing Jeremy.

He was surprised and that made it no easier.  Nevertheless Jeremy
went forward.  He wished terribly that Corner was not there.

"Look here.  I didn't want to disturb you.  It's only a minute."

"No, that's all right," Llewellyn said, standing, his legs well
spread, looking at Jeremy and smiling.  When he smiled he was
charming; all his natural good heart, his clumsy amiability, the
real, true sweetness of his very simple character, came out in that
smile.  And he liked young Cole, he liked him better every time he
saw him.

"What's the row?" he asked.

"It's like this," Jeremy said, in his urgency forgetting Corner and
all his surroundings.  "I've got a chance of playing in the
Callendar game, haven't I?  Everyone knows I have and Steevens is
certain to play and he'd rather play with me as scrum-half than
with anyone else, and they've tried all the other combinations and
neither Burnett nor Robson are right, are they?  Well then," he
paused to draw breath, "I'm frightfully keen on playing of course--
anyone is.  I don't want you to tell me whether I'm playing, but
chaps have been saying that someone's going to kick up a row
because of the fight I had with Staire the other day, and that
they're going to drop on me and perhaps stop my playing."

He paused.  He looked at Llewellyn, and when their eyes met it
seemed that they had gone a step further in their friendship.

"Oh, Lord," said Llewellyn.  "I hadn't heard anything about it.  I
hope they won't."  This was in a way reassuring, but in a way it
was not.  Llewellyn hadn't heard anything--THAT was good--on the
other hand he was obviously alarmed.

"Do you think there can be anything in it?" he asked.

"I don't know," Llewellyn answered slowly.  "Leeson's a rum bird.
You never know what he's thinking."

"He hasn't said anything to you?"

"Not a word.  And I went and told him there was going to be a
fight, and he said all right, go ahead."

"Oh, did you?  That was awfully decent of you."

"Not a bit.  I told you I would.  But the Camel may have made a row
since."

"Oh, may he?"

"They say he meant to stamp on the Runners scraps altogether.  I
don't know.  On the other hand I bet Leeson told him before it came
off and he could have stopped it then."

"Yes, he could, couldn't he?" said Jeremy relieved.  "Thanks most
awfully."

He turned to go.  It seemed that Llewellyn wanted to say something
more to him.  But he didn't.  So Jeremy went.  Only oddly out in
the passage Jeremy thought to himself, "I don't believe Corner
likes me."

Very soon the topic with everyone began to be the Callendar match.
In Leeson's it was a topic of fiery interest and for this reason--
it was discovered that if young Cole was chosen Leeson's would have
more boys in the team than any other House.  They were certain of
four--three forwards, Llewellyn, Monteith and Wakefield, one three-
quarter, Barry.  Bunt's might have four, if Burnett played instead
of Cole.  If Cole played Leeson's would have five, a larger number
in this particular match than there had been within anyone's
memory.

As soon as, therefore, it was discovered that there was this House
rivalry in the matter the excitement was terrific.  Stocky Cole
MUST play.  Of COURSE he was better than Burnett--everyone knew
that.  It was only dirty favouritism on Bunt's part that gave
Burnett a chance.  There were darkly whispered plots in the Lower
School as to the private poisoning of Burnett by putting glass into
his drink--or why not break his leg by tying a string across his
House-door at night?  The Dormouse, now a very active member of
society, was one of the most fertile in these plans.  There
followed, then, a House Game between Bunt's and Haggard's, in which
Burnett played extremely well and one between Leeson's and Bunt's
in which Jeremy, hopelessly nervous for the first time in his life,
did less than nothing at all.

Jeremy was watched and cared for as a prize animal might be,
advised as to his food, begged not to go out after dark, pestered
with advice as to his play, urged to practise secretly with
Steevens.

As the days advanced he was himself in a panic.  He had never known
anything like this.  He felt, at length, that it would be a relief
to find the names up and his own not among them.  Anything to
escape from this hateful uncertainty. . . .


3


To-day, at last, the uncertainty would be over.  Between five and
six in the afternoon the team would be up on the Games Board.

As he dressed and ran down to Call-Over he wondered how he would
last through the hours.  He held himself in, speaking to no one
lest he should show his anxiety.

He had a difficult time with Parlow that morning.  Parlow had been
strange during the last fortnight, uneasy, ironical, making as it
were approaches back to the old relationship again.

But Jeremy gave him no help.  He was not going to forget in a
hurry.  And he was uneasy with Parlow now.  He didn't trust him any
longer.  And when he didn't trust anybody he was at a loss.  He
didn't know how to behave.

Oddly enough they were this morning in the English lesson again,
back at the "Tintern Abbey" that had originally caused the trouble.
Many weeks of deep thinking and serious attention had brought the
class through a bewildering underbrush of thirty lines or so.  (A
sure method this of successfully slaughtering any boy's natural
love of good poetry.)

Jeremy remembered his bit well enough this morning:


                                 If this
     Be but a vain belief, yet oh! how oft
     In darkness, and amid the many shapes
     Of joyless daylight: when the fretful stir
     Unprofitable, and the fever of the world
     Have hung upon the beatings of my heart
     How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
     O sylvan Wye!


He said his lines admirably, quite correctly, and with exactly no
meaning in them at all.

Parlow looked at him with cold irony, but behind the irony he
seemed to say:

"Look here, let's be friends again!  Forgive what I did.  Let's be
as we were!"

Jeremy regarded him stonily, as though he were the image of Daddy
Wordsworth himself, and, while he was monotonously reciting, his
brain was arguing:  "But if they play Burnett they've simply lost
the match.  Anyone could tell them at . . ."

"And what, my dear young friend," asked Parlow, "do you consider is
meant exactly by 'the many shapes of joyless daylight'?"

Jeremy considered.  "Well, sir, I should think he sometimes got
sick of everything, didn't find anything amusing."  (And he was
thinking:  "Anyway if they do put Burnett in Steevens will make a
nice row. . . .")

"Oh, that's your opinion is it?" Parlow continued.  "Rather badly
put, but one can scarcely perhaps expect good style from a famous
footballer. . . ."

(And HE was saying:  "Come along now!  We used to have such a good
time.  If I did lose my temper you're very irritating at times you
know.")

"'The fretful stir,'" Parlow went on.  "Why fretful, do you think?"

"Taken from children, sir," said Jeremy promptly.  "Children are
fretful and--and--make a stir."

(He was thinking:  "Perhaps the Camel will tell them that he thinks
I oughtn't to play.  Rotten trick if he does.  If he wanted to
punish me he could give me a licking. . . .")

"Very ingenious, friend Cole," Parlow was saying.  "Mr. Wordsworth
would undoubtedly be grateful if he heard you.  But why limit
fretfulness to children?  You would scarcely call yourself a child,
I gather, and even schoolmasters at times have been known to--"

This roused of course a hearty laugh throughout the form but Jeremy
did not even hear it.  He was thinking, "And Burnett never goes
down to the scrums properly.  He funks them every time.  Everyone
says so. . . ."


4


He could eat no dinner.  The hot slabs of mutton, the monotonous
cabbage, how repulsive they were!  No one mentioned the game to him
but it was in everybody's thoughts.

There was a House Practice and he waited wearily under a biting
cold wind while scrums were formed again and again, and shouted at
by Wakefield, one of the certainties for the Callendar match.
Llewellyn was in all probability at that very moment with the other
selectors choosing the team, and at that thought he warmed a little
because Llewellyn undoubtedly liked him and wanted him to play.  He
liked Llewellyn; yes, he thought about it, standing shivering on
the field, while the incoherent scrimmages flopped and fell and
rose again.  The three boys in the school he liked best--Jumbo,
Llewellyn and Ridley--how different they were!  He was afraid, he
realized, of something in Llewellyn's liking for him.  While he was
only too safe in his friendship for Jumbo, so that it was in danger
of tedium, and while his feeling about Ridley called out of him
nothing but hero-worship and a determination to do the very best at
everything, with Llewellyn there was something "queer" . . . he
wasn't comfortable. . . .  Oh, here was practice over!  He could
go.  He ran up to the changing room, and with a shock so savage
that it was like a blow in the face from an enemy, he understood
that in a moment or two now the list would be up.  By the time he
had changed it would be on the wall and his fate decided.

He stood for a moment, sick in the stomach, and his legs refused to
take him on to the changing room.  He drove himself forward.  He
didn't want to speak to a soul.  He took his shower, noticed that
his body was trembling, rubbed himself violently, huddled on his
clothes.

His body now was icy cold but his head hot.  He felt that he must
give himself away completely to anyone who saw him.  He walked out
into the air and stood there in the cold wind, pushing his hands
through his hair.

The list was in all probability up there now and he hadn't the
courage to go and see.  No, he hadn't the courage.  Someone must
come and tell him.  But--if they were playing Burnett. . . .  Well,
anyone could see. . . .  Oh, he didn't care.  It was only this
waiting.  Well, why wait any longer?  The list was there.  He
turned slowly towards the Big School corridor where the sporting
notices were always posted, and as he went he observed ridiculous
things, a piece of dirty newspaper whirling by itself, as though it
were taking exercise for warmth; some boys kicking a football on
the field, and how long the ball seemed to linger in the air
against the grey and crumpled sea; a boy hurrying past him, a pile
of books under his arm. . . .  Oh, the idiot that he was!  Let him
get it over and have done with it.  He moved through the big doors
and saw the long stone corridor stretching apparently for miles in
front of him and on the far end at the right against the bright
yellow board what was, from where he stood, a tiny square of white.

Slowly he went down the corridor.  At the moment there was no one
there.  He was alone in the whole school, save for someone who, in
the distance, was tinkling a piano.

He choked in the throat.  Unknowingly he clenched his hot damp
hands behind his back.  He looked up.

There it was:


                       CRALE v. CALLENDAR


A list of names.  Nowhere his own.  Hoskyns. . . .  Bender. . . .
Forsyte. . . .  Marsh.  Richards Mi. . . .  Wakefield. . . .

He could have sobbed with disappointment and then--as though it had
suddenly leaped upon the page:


                   Half-Backs: Cole, Steevens


Cole, Steevens--COLE, STEEVENS.  COLE. . . .  COLE. . . .
COLE. . . .

He turned away, smiling at nothing in an idiotic manner.

A group of boys, chattering eagerly, were hastening to the board.

He fled as though he had committed a crime.



CHAPTER XVI

THE MATCH AGAINST CALLENDAR



1


The great day broke in fog, sea fog, dank, spidery, chilly and
blinding.  The only thing beside a bed-rock frost to fear.  And
here it was.  What was God about?

At eight o'clock the fog was blinding and you could hear the
signals of the ships at sea.  At nine o'clock it had cleared a
little and you could see men as trees walking.  At ten it had come
on again and it crept into the class room writhing its horrid way
about forms and boys and masters.

"No match to-day," Parlow said grimly, and everyone hated Parlow.
At eleven it was thin again and at twelve a miserable sun like a
shabby soup plate made a ring.

At one o'clock there was no fog, the Callendar team had arrived and
everyone was singing.

The tortures suffered by Jeremy during the morning could not be
described by the author of "A Rebours" at his most grimy.  Until
one o'clock, when it was certain that the match would be played, he
thought that he would make a hole in the sea if it was "off"; after
one o'clock, suicide seemed the only alternative to eternal
disgrace.  He wouldn't be able to play.  He had better go and tell
them so.  His legs didn't belong to him, he couldn't see, he was
sick in the stomach.

At two o'clock they were gathered together for a few words from
Beltane, their gallant captain.  He was red-headed and some seven
feet odd in height.  To Jeremy he was a full grown man, as old as
Uncle Samuel.  He had a moustache.  His wrath when things went
wrong was something terrible.

"Look here, you chaps," he said.  "We've got to win to-day.  Partly
because we haven't been beaten this term yet and partly because
Callendar's won two years running.  We're up against a stiff lot
to-day and Mellon's probably the best three-quarter playing on any
school side this season.  But that needn't worry us.  We've got a
better pack than theirs or I'll go and bury myself.  I'm not saying
anything against the three-quarters, who are fine, but I expect
we'd better make it a forward game.  And quick, their three-
quarters.  Mellon's the devil.  And remember, whatever happens in
the first half you can always win any game in the second half, so
don't get down-hearted.  On the other hand, if we have some luck in
the first half don't get over confident.  The game isn't won until
the last whistle goes."

Jeremy, listening, felt that he would willingly die for him.  Then,
of course, Bunt had to say a few foolish words, and everyone hated
him and wished him buried.  The Callendar men came on to the field
first and there was the polite cheering of hosts who want their
guests to be comfortable, but when the Crale team ran out you could
surely have heard the shout at Land's End, had you been there
listening.

But Jeremy, as he ran on, was conscious of nothing but the state of
the ground.  It was hard, damned hard.  There was a thin silver
rime of frost, and frosted ridges where the soil had been kicked up
in the mud.  It would HURT when you fell.  But that was a thought
to keep away from you.  Nevertheless, he wished his throat was not
so dry and he was sure that everyone must see how his knees were
trembling.

And then the Callendar people looked ENORMOUS.  Giants!  The Crale
forwards would never be able to hold them.

He was aware of the crowd as a kind of black wall penning him in.
He dared not look at it, nor think of it, nor consider the way that
it would feel did he miss something or funk going down to the
scrum.  THAT scrum!  How would he ever be able to stop them?

The whistle blew.

Yes, the whistle blew and exactly one second later the most awful
thing in all the recorded history of Crale School occurred.

Mellon, the Callendar star, scored a try.

How it happened Jeremy never exactly knew.  Crale had kicked off,
the Callendar back had gathered the ball and punted back, somebody
picked it up, passed forward, there was a scrimmage, and a moment
later the Callendar half had it, had passed to Mellon and Mellon
was off.  He eluded Bender, the Crale three-quarter, side-stepped
Hoskyns, the back, and had touched the ball down.

To say that this was tragedy was to say nothing.  You could feel
the horror of it strike the crowd like a blinding lightning flash.
No sound came.  No movement, only a dreadful heart-stopped hush, as
the world waited to see whether Callendar would kick a goal or no.
Callendar did kick a goal.  Callendar had a lead of five points in
the first minute.


2


Upon Jeremy this devastating catastrophe produced one of his cold
remorseless rages.  Upon the rest of the Crale team also, perhaps.
Certainly upon Jeremy.  As always when something terrible happened
to him, he saw all the Cole family gathered together, insulted and
injured.  It was as though someone had just stepped up and told him
that his father was a rotten preacher, that his sister Mary was
plain beyond bearing, that his sister Helen was a conceited prig.
Also, as though his family were stationed just in front of the
crowd, remarks were passing on every side of them:  "Of course
Crale hasn't a chance against Callendar."  "That boy Mellon will
run through again and again."  "He'll do just what he likes with
them all."

Moreover, he could tell from the way that the Callendar men carried
themselves, as they triumphantly strutted back to the middle of the
field again, that they were thinking the same as the crowd: "Well,
this is going to be an easy thing.  All we've got to do is to see
that Mellon has the ball.  That oughtn't to be difficult.  We'll
knock up a record score."

Now, as every boy in the Crale team WAS feeling just as Jeremy, it
was not unnatural that when the whistle sounded and one of the
Callendar three-quarters, gathering the ball, failed to hold it,
the Crale forwards were upon the Callendarians like tigers let
loose on an Indian village.

Now Beltane had been right when he said that the Crale pack this
season was an unusually good one.  It was in physical size, with
the exception of Beltane himself and Llewellyn, smaller than the
Callendar pack, but Beltane had a genius for forward play (as, if
India hadn't claimed him, England would afterwards most certainly
have discovered) and throughout that term he had been educating and
chiding and drilling those forwards as though they had been his own
children.  The result of this was that they worked as one brain.
They knew what they could do and what each one of them could do.
Those were the days before "Wingers" and before the time when a
forward had to be almost as fast as a three-quarter, if he was
worth his place; but Beltane had some ideas before his time and if
little Ronny Marsh wasn't exactly a "winger" he was as near to it
as no matter.

The Callendar forwards, thick and heavy to a man, had learnt to
pack and to shove and that was about all that they could do.

It was soon discovered that the Crale forwards were getting the
ball nine times out of ten, and as soon as the school crowd behind
the ropes discovered this the cheering became frantic.  The
Callendar backs were forced to kick again and again into touch to
save their position.

And now Jeremy came into his game.  If there is anything in this
world that a scrum-half loves it is to have his forwards heeling
out the ball well and cleanly and then to have a wise and astute
stand-off-half to pass to.  All these conditions were now Jeremy's,
and for ten minutes he knew perfect happiness.

The artist in him could feel the symmetry and rhythm that informed
those eight bending and straining bodies in front of him, and there
spread to his own heart that sacred fire that was burning in
theirs.

"Coming right, Crale," and then the swing, the urge, the quick
clean flick of the back row of heels and out the ball came and
away, a second later, to Steevens.

How often, during those ten minutes, should Crale have scored, and
how often, alas, did the Crale three-quarters bungle their passes,
send them forward, misfield them, bunch too closely together, run
straight when they should have feinted, kick into touch when the
field was clear in front of them!

As magnificent as were the Crale forwards during that time, so
disappointing and wrong-headed were the Crale three-quarters.

And yet, as school three-quarters go, they were not a bad line.  On
an ordinary day against an ordinary team they would have won fine,
green laurels.  Or it may have been that they were as good as the
Callendar men allowed them to be.  Certainly the Callendar marking
and collaring was of the very finest order.  They had that stamp of
the first-class footballer--they had prevision.  Mellon, above all,
seemed to rule the game as a great player of chess might do,
dictating the moves to the other side and then spoiling them.

But if Mellon was the genius of the Callendar team it was clear
enough by now that Steevens was the genius of Crale.  No move, now,
that he did not attempt.  Testing one three-quarter after another,
he showed no disappointment when they failed him.  It was as though
he were always behind them, suggesting the right thing for them to
do.

Jeremy himself had the strangest sense that he and Steevens were
the same man in the same body.  The Callendar scrum-half was a
little, thin, wiry creature with a long nose; he was everywhere at
once and was, Jeremy was certain, more generally off-side than not,
but Jeremy and Steevens were too much for him.  He was losing his
temper, Jeremy perceived with pleasure, and muttering wild and
savage words.  All the better.  Lose your temper and your game was
spoilt.

Nevertheless, it was at last evident that for the moment at least
the Crale three-quarters were of no use, so that a forward game it
must be and a forward game it became.

Now, shrilly from behind the ropes, came the scream from a hundred
throats:  "Feet!  Feet!  Feet! . . .  FEET, SCHOOL" . . .  and
"Feet" it was.  It was worth going a hundred miles by sea or land
to watch how the Crale forwards kept the ball, how they broke,
dribbled, formed; how, when the Callendar forwards fell on the
ball, they massed and shoved and shoved again; and then, when the
whistle sounded, how swiftly and neatly they packed; and then,
instead of heeling, rushed the big Callendar men off their ground,
broke and dribbled and swerved and feinted.  Now at last the ball
was in the enemy Twenty-Five, nearer and ever nearer, and the crowd
behind the ropes became hysterical with joy and rapture.

Then came a moment when Crale was almost over.  Nothing could be
seen but the heaving bodies confused and commingled on the goal
line itself.  Jeremy was aware of nothing, crouching beside the
turmoil waiting for that miraculous moment when the ball would
appear, touch his hands and be off to the three-quarters, who could
surely not, at that distance, fail to score.

But the ball did not appear.  Someone fell, someone fell on top of
him, then someone else, and beyond the tangled heap came the clear
call of the whistle:  "Five yards back!"

Back they went, down again, the ball flung in.  The Callendar
forwards had it and manoeuvred the finest wheel of the match,
swinging round against all opposition, keeping the ball between
their feet and dribbling it in one gigantic rush back to the middle
of the field.

A great sigh went up from behind the ropes.  The chance was lost.
When, oh when, would it occur again?

It was then that Jeremy was aware of Bender, the Crale three-
quarter, facing the great Mellon.  He knew (but he could not tell
you how he knew) that Bender was terrified.  His spirit seemed to
enter into Bender's spirit.  There was no moment in the whole game
when he was more intent on his own business, but behind that
intentness seemed to be this other knowledge--Bender was terrified
and was going to let them down.

Bender was recognized as nervous and sometimes undependable but he
was chosen for his speed.  He stood there now, waiting on his wing,
apparently calm and prepared: but Jeremy KNEW.  Did Callendar score
another goal before half-time and the game was as good as lost.
How COULD they make more than ten points in the second half against
such an opposition?  It must be almost half-time now.

Mellon, who had a strange face, with a large nose and heavy,
beetling black eyebrows, assumed for Jeremy then the figure of some
avenging fate.  He seemed to grow in size, and when Jeremy,
slinging the ball into the scrum, could not see him he yet felt him
there, standing over the wretched Bender, waiting to pounce.

In an agony of terror Jeremy saw that the Callendar forwards had
the ball, that it was out and away.  It passed with a beautiful,
clean, swinging movement along the three-quarter line, and Mellon
had it.  He swerved past Bender who missed him altogether.  Had he
run then straight down the touch line he must have scored; but for
once, making a wrong decision, he swerved inward, passed Llewellyn
and some forwards and then came tearing in Jeremy's direction.

If Jeremy ever felt small in his life he felt small then.  He had
always known, ever since he had first started to play football,
that if there was one thing in life of which, in his secret heart,
he was desperately afraid, it was of tackling a big and fast three-
quarter.  He did not care (or at least in his normal healthy days
he did not care) to how many forward rushes he went down.  That
seemed to be his natural job.  But this other, its isolation, the
danger of a swerve that left you gaping foolishly in mid-air, or
the risk of tackling too high, so that you were shaken off and
flung for nothing, or the other peril of meeting him full shock and
getting a concussion that made you useless for the remainder of the
game, all these things he knew only too terribly well.

Now the worst was upon him.  He felt that the field behind him was
clear and that Hoskyns, the back, rushing across, would never be in
time.  If he missed this, Mellon could take his pleasure, plant the
ball where he fancied and a goal would be the certain result.

A bridge in an endless space!  His heart guttered, his eyes
darkened, he saw an enormous tree detach itself from the far end of
the field, and, black as ebony, wave its branches derisively
against a silver sky.  He heard some voice call.  He flung himself
forward and for an instant Mellon's face with its thick, bushy
eyebrows rushed at him like a flying moon.  He fell forward
straight against Mellon's bony knees and round those his arms
tightened like a vice.

He knew that Mellon was falling and a triumphant crow echoed
somewhere in his throat.  Mellon crashed to the ground, Jeremy
slipping away from him as he fell.

When he picked himself up he could hear them shouting.  Steevens
running past him cried, "Well tackled, Stocky!" and a moment later
he was bending beside the scrum again shouting:  "Coming left,
school. . . .  Coming left!"

He had saved the situation for the moment, but only for the moment.
Once more the Callendar forwards had the ball, once more it was out
and swinging down the Callendar line.

Mellon had it and this time made no mistake but ran straight up the
touch line.  Bender was opposite to him.  It was not a difficult
tackle but Jeremy with agony knew that Bender would miss it.

He hesitated, put out his hands feebly, caught the slack of
Mellon's bags and Mellon was past him.  Hoskyns went for him but
Mellon swerved and the ball was touched down behind the goal posts.

The kick for goal missed, the ball just slanting on the outside of
the posts.

The whistle went for half-time.  Callendar led by eight points to
none.


3


The sudden cessation of that desperate preoccupation has something
startlingly precipitate about it.  The whistle blows and the
outside world swings back.

The field that had seemed immense narrowed itself.  The group of
trees at the sea end of it came forward with an intimate and
friendly air.  The dark crowd behind the ropes drew near and Jeremy
fancied that he could distinguish figures known to him, Mrs. Bunt
and Mrs. Leeson and Parlow. . . .

He was aware sharply of his own body.  A cold wind was blowing
across the ground and getting into his skin.  He was sore in
various places.  On the inside of one groin, the left knee, the
back of his head somewhere.

He knew that he was not as badly depressed as he ought to be.  A
lead of eight points to none! . . .  Whew!  That was terrible.
Small chance of a victory now, perhaps.  But it had been a splendid
forty minutes.  The grandest of his life.  And as long as he lived
he would remember his tackle of Mellon, the thrill of that clutch
round the bare knees--yes, whatever happened in the game there
would always be that to remember!

The light was going to be bad before the end of the game.  The sky
was clear, a pale crystal white touched faintly with a shadow of
apricot.  A sharp frost was in the air, and he could feel the
ground hardening under his feet.  Behind him, the hill was
darkening and the great pile of school buildings was dimly purple
against the pure, white sky.  Frost, silver biting stars,
chrysanthemums, promise of Christmas, the dark, black line of the
watching spectators, all these things hung together, like clothes
in a cupboard, in his mind.  He sucked his lemon, then saw that
Beltane wanted them.  They gathered in a bunch around him.

"Don't think we're going to be beaten," he was saying, "because
we're not.  What's eight points?  They won't last.  They're fat.
We've only got to push them hard."  He had a lot of other things to
say but Jeremy couldn't listen.  He wanted to speak to Steevens,
and was aware, through that odd subconscious connection that he had
with him, that Steevens wanted to speak to him.  As soon as Beltane
had finished he slipped across and Steevens turned to him as though
he knew he'd been coming.

"Look here, Stocky," he said.  "We've got to attack more.  They're
not nearly as sound in defence.  Not even Mellon.  I'm going out on
my own a bit.  Never mind if we make mistakes.  It's better to risk
it."  Then he added, "It's a fine game!  I don't care whether we
win or lose.  It's a ripping game!"

Jeremy felt that, too.  As he went back to his place he knew that
he was extraordinarily happy.  He would like life to go on like
this, just like this, for ever.  At the same time he wanted to win.
He wanted it terribly.  Two goals would do it if Callendar failed
to score again.  There was a monstrous "IF" there, as he felt, with
some sinking of the heart when he saw them all lined out there,
waiting for the whistle.

But Crale could do better than it had done in the first half.  The
three-quarters could do better.  Barry for instance--the best
three-quarter Crale had had for years and as yet he had done
nothing at all. . . .

The whistle went, a great roar came up from the crowd, "School!
School!  SCHOOL!" and at once again the Crale forwards pressed and
at once again the ball was heeled out cleanly, found Jeremy, and
then was out and away.  It was clear, too, that a new figure had
come on to the scene, a new, revived and urgent Barry.

Barry, who was rather of Jeremy's build, did not look a three-
quarter, and certainly he had not the speed of Bender.  He was,
with Beltane, the oldest member of the Crale team, but he was
considered principally as a defensive player because he was strong,
fearless and an admirable tackler.

But now he seemed to be fired with a divine impetus.  A dozen times
in the first five minutes he was away, and on each occasion he was
brought down by the Callendar defence.  A new, triangular
understanding seemed to be developed between himself, Jeremy and
Steevens; it was almost as though they were the only active players
on the Crale side.

There seemed to be some truth in the prophecy that the Callendar
forwards would tire.  They were heavy men and their bulk was
beginning to tell on them.  The little Callendar half was raging
and foaming at the way in which the Crale forwards were heeling the
ball.  "Get it and--Heel, Callendar!" he screamed, in a funny,
frenzied screech, and he was for ever rushing round to Jeremy's
side, always to find that he was too late and that the ball was
away.

He used the most shocking words and cursed everything and
everybody.  All to no purpose.  The forwards would not do as he
implored them.

Then came a line-out, Llewellyn jumped for the ball, caught it and
tossed it back to Barry, who was off with a speed that his build
denied.

Here his strength helped him.  He brushed past three or four
forwards and had some open ground in front of him, but alas, he
tripped in a rut and fell.  The Crale forwards carried the ball on,
it rolled back, Jeremy picked it up and flung it to Barry.  Once
more he was off, and now, instead of running straight, he turned
inwards, slipped Mellon, and, with a speed that no one had ever
seen him use before, outpaced the Callendar back and touched the
ball down on the far right-hand corner.

Then there was a roar such as those old trees had seldom heard.  It
was triumphant and magnificent, and the old buildings behind it
seemed to echo it and carry it up to the rosy, pillow-shaped clouds
hovering over the crooked chimneys.

Suddenly as it rose, so suddenly it fell.  There was a dead and
flattened stillness.  Williams was lying on his belly, placing the
ball for Forsyte to kick.  It was at a desperately difficult angle,
the light was not good, a little wind played sportively about the
ground, as though set free by some Callendar demon.

So still was the world that the rattle of a cart came clearly from
the neighbouring road.  Breathless, everyone watched and waited.
Then the Callendar men ran forward, the ball soared into the air
magnificently as though pulled by some friendly string, swerved
towards the post.  From where Jeremy was standing it was impossible
to see whether it had achieved the miraculously incredible or no;
then the two touch judges raised their arms and another shout
lifted to heaven greater and more triumphant than the last.

Five points to eight and fifteen minutes to go!


4


It was then that the Callendar team showed of what truly fine metal
it was made.  Jeremy will never, so long as he lives, forget the
next ten minutes.  In fierce moments afterwards, when in France the
last inch of endurance was demanded from him; in light, silly times
at a theatre, in some foreign road, lying lazily in bed just before
dropping off to sleep, swimming idly in some sunny sea, the echo of
a memory would come to him--"THAT was a day--that time when the
Callendar men pushed us off the ball in the second half, when there
were fifteen minutes to go!"  And an odd, confused medley of the
frosty field, the white cold sky, the bunched, rosy clouds, the
dry, rich smell of chrysanthemums, the thick, black line of
onlookers, Beltane's tumbled hair, the black smudge on Barry's
cheek, Mellon's bushy eyebrows, Steevens' strange, cold,
imperturbable glance, these all came back to him as came no picture
of any other game in which he ever played.

After that goal Callendar was inspired.  They had been, perhaps,
too confident, although long ere this they had known that they were
up against no ordinary team.  But now they were not going to have
victory snatched from them as one goal would snatch it.  What!
After leading by five points in the first minute!  Not if they knew
it!

So they played like demons, every one of them.  They seemed
themselves now to make the choice that it should be forward play.
They packed and shoved, broke and dribbled like giants working
under one master mind.  In vain Beltane, realizing that as the
moments passed the chances of that winning goal were shredding away
to the wind, urged and cajoled and threatened and swore.  No one
could have done more than he, no body of men worked more
desperately, with more sweating purpose, more determined courage
than the men who were with him.  Relentlessly the Callendar pack
had its way, first a scrum shoving the Crale men off the ball, then
a dribble, then a pick up, a fling to the three-quarter, a tackle,
the ball on the ground again, a desperate pick up and run from some
clumsy lumbering forward, a roll out to touch, a line-out, a
Callendar forward with the ball again, another dribble--and at last
a terrible struggle on the Crale goal-line itself.

Jeremy seemed to have flung all soul and body into that frantic
opposition.  He was eight men, fifteen, twenty, hoarsely crying the
ball, then flinging himself at the thing, as it moved among the
knees and feet and scrambling bodies, then, when the struggle was
almost on the goal-line itself, realizing that there could be but
five minutes to go, knowing that one struggle, wriggle forward over
an inch of ground on the part of a Callendar man meant final
failure, feeling nothing but that now, when it had come to this,
death would be preferable to defeat--so he fought for the life of
himself, the school, very eternity.

Behind the ropes now there were only maniacs.  Men, women, children
shouting, imploring, cursing, bellowing, whispering . . . and down
on Farloes Road an old man driving two pigs to their sty stopped
and scratched his head and sniffed the air.  He knew that a great
battle was toward.

The very rosy clouds themselves stayed suspended, hanging to Crale
chimneys to steady their wandering attention.

Four minutes to go!

It seemed that Callendar was over.  A great heap fell, pell-mell,
over the line, the ball beneath them.  The Callendar men rose
shouting.  A ghastly agonizing doubt rose in the hearts behind the
ropes.  But the referee gave it a five yards scrum.  Three minutes
to go.

For once the Crale men had the ball, for once it was heeled out
sharply into Jeremy's very hands.  A second later Steevens had it.

He turned, swerved, raised his arms and then flung, far and out,
above the heads of the intervening three-quarters, to Barry on the
wing.

It was a risk of the most perilous.  Had Barry missed it there, in
the very Crale Twenty-Five and in front of goal (the forwards,
indeed, had broken all sound rules by heeling), Mellon must have
scored.

But Barry didn't miss it, and even as he caught it, with the same
impulse he was off straight down the touch line with three-quarters
of the field to go, with a half-back and Mellon flying for him, no
one to pass to were he tackled.

Mellon missed him (and would not forget that miss even in his grey-
bearded evenings), the half-back caught his jersey, it ripped,
streamed in mid air, but Barry was not stayed.  There remained the
back.  He sped for him, Barry swerved, the back had him by the leg,
Barry kicked, almost fell, stumbled, half-tumbling erected himself,
tumbled again, fell headlong over the Callendar line planting his
ball as he fell.

The roar rose and died.  Would Forsyte kick another goal?  This
time the angle was not difficult.  The little wind had died.  The
ball sailed like a darling, clear, free, straight between the
posts.

Crale had won their game by ten points to eight.



CHAPTER XVII

NIGHT-PIECE: HOUSE-SUPPER


1


Jeremy watched the evening creep up from the sea.  Creep was not
the word, though.  Now that they were in December night came with a
rush, and before you could realize it there was one faint bar of
gold over the sea, and for the rest only the shiver of the hedges,
the cry of the sheep, the pat-pat of the rhythmic waves.  He loved
that sensation of being caught by the dark.  There was a deep sense
of adventure in it.

It had happened to him now.  He had gone down to the tuck-shop to
buy a ball of string to tie things up with.  To-day was the last
day of term.  This morning marks had been read out and Jeremy was
half way up his new form.  Not bad at all and as six boys, at
least, would win their "moves," next term would see Jeremy sitting
about sixth in the form.  Not bad that.  He was moving on.

Down there at the tuck-shop had been little Ronny Marsh, one of the
school forwards who had played in the great Callendar Match, and
Jeremy had been talking to him on quite equal terms--a surprising
thing, if you stopped to consider it.  They had been talking, of
course, of the great game and had been chuckling--as all the school
had chuckled--over the undoubted fact that the game had been won by
an impertinent piece of absolutely forbidden play.  To pass in
front of your own goal as Steevens had done (and such a risky pass
in itself, too), well, such a thing would make a man like Bunt turn
in his stomach.  But that was just like Steevens.  He could do
things that other fellows couldn't.  He would try something that
seemed hopelessly mad, but for him it wouldn't be.

And then Marsh magnificently added that the school was damn lucky
to have two halves like Steevens and Cole, who suited one another
so perfectly and had four seasons yet, in all probability, at
Crale.  Everybody was saying how lucky it was.

Everybody was saying that?  So he had arrived?  He was safely
ensconced inside the First Fifteen.  He had achieved the great
ambition of his life.  Nothing now, unless he went right off his
form or fell sick, could rob him of that honour.  And yet--and yet--
Here was his ambition fulfilled and here he was regretting
something.  Regretting what?  He did not know.

And here he was rumbling along and running right into someone.
This someone, moreover, was Parlow.

"Sorry, sir!"

"Hullo!  Who's that?  Is that you, Cole?"

"Yes, sir."

Parlow put a hand on his shoulder.

"Come in a moment.  Got five minutes?"

"Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir."

Parlow's house was just round the corner.  They went in.  Jeremy
stood for a moment in the hall, blinded by the light, then he
followed his large broad-shouldered host upstairs.

He had not been here since the unfortunate day of his meeting with
Staire.  A great many things had happened since then.  Yes, and he
wasn't going to be easy with Parlow.  Parlow needn't think that
he'd altogether forgotten. . . .

Parlow didn't think anything of the kind.  He began at once about
it.

"Look here, Cole, I've got to make my apologies.  I've been wanting
to for some time.  I had no right to say what I did, and especially
in class.  It's not the first time my temper's betrayed me into an
injustice and I'm sorry.  If you can forgive me for it I'll be
glad."

Very embarrassing.  Jeremy wished people wouldn't do these things
and yet in this case something had to be said before everything
could go on again smoothly.

He lifted his head and looked Parlow in the face.

"It wasn't true what you said, sir.  I felt it was unjust.  A lot
of fellows were down on me just then, and I didn't see what I'd
done wrong."  Then he smiled and his whole face wrinkled and
lighted.  "But it's all right now, sir.  Everything's all right."

"I'm forgiven, then," said Parlow easily.  (There was something
serious beneath their talk and they both of them realized this.)
"I won't do it again, I can promise you.  I want you to come in
here a lot next term--just whenever you feel inclined.  Lots of
fellows don't care for books and pictures a bit but I think you
will--or at least you ought to."

"Oh, there's Keats!" Jeremy cried excitedly.

"Why, what do you know about Keats?" Parlow asked.

"Oh, only Corner the other day--that's a chap in our House, shares
a Study with Llewellyn--asked me whether I knew Keats and I
couldn't think what he was talking about."

He picked up the small blue book.

"Oh, it's poetry," he said.

"Yes," said Parlow.  "He was an apothecary and he died of
consumption before he was thirty.  He wrote some of the grandest
things in English literature.  I'll lend you his Letters for a
start--the early volume of them, anyway, and then you can read some
Hazlitt and then some of Lamb's Letters.  They were all friends--a
wonderful time when great men of letters were as common as
gooseberries."

"And aren't they now?" said Jeremy, for something to say.

"No, they're not," said Parlow.

So they were friends again.  Jeremy departed up the dark path to
the school.  Yes, they were friends.  But Parlow wasn't quite as he
had been.  He would never be again quite what he had been before
that bit of trouble. . . .


2


It was not until he was summoned up to the box-room by Ma Bender
that the full tide of his happiness swung in upon him.  It was
then, when he entered the long stuffy room and saw the rows and
rows of trunks and boxes, many corded and piled against the wall,
others lying open and exposed, pressed down and running over with
shirts and collars and pants, and in the middle of them Ma Bender
and the two maids, sweating with their hard work under the hissing
gas--yes, then he was suddenly swung into a bliss of happiness, a
kind of mist of trains going home and holly with light, red,
glistening berries, masses of things to eat and freedom!

Ma Bender was stout, her stays crackling and creaking with exertion
and her body, bent forward over the boxes, so broad that it didn't
seem to resemble a body at all.  She raised a red perspiring face.

"Oh yes, you, Cole.  Just look in your box there and see whether
those shirts are yours.  There are four of them unmarked."

He looked at his box and remembered how terribly proud of it he had
been three years ago when, new and gleaming, it had first been his.
Now it was old and battered but PART of him, having in its dents
and shabby label some of his personality.

They were not his shirts.  He turned round to say so.  Two boys
came bustling in.  One of them was the Dormouse.  A Dormouse
transformed, noisy, untidy, perspiring with energy and excitement,
prepared to shout.  Then he saw Jeremy and stopped.

"Now, you boys," said Ma Bender; "coming in here making all that
row.  You aren't home yet, you know, plaguing your poor mothers.
Whatever they do with you, the holidays being so long, _I_ can't
think.  All the same, I'm glad you give us a breathing space I'm
sure.  What I mean to say is, we'd never get along if we hadn't
one, tiring us out as you do. . . .  Now, Morgan, you just leave
those boxes alone.  You mind your own business.  The most troublous
boy in the whole House, that's what you've become.  What I mean to
say is, you were quiet enough when you come here first, but as I
always do say, it's those that are quietest when they come first
who are the most trouble afterwards.  What I mean to say is, you
never CAN tell.  Now, Morgan, you come away from those boxes and
you too, Pritchett Minor."

The Dormouse looked at Jeremy smiling.  He seemed to have lost his
old shyness.

"I say isn't it ripping going home to-morrow!"

Jeremy smiled back.

The Dormouse went on:

"Would you like an apple?  I've got two."

"Thanks awfully," said Jeremy.

"Now, you boys . . ." began again Ma Bender.

Jeremy departed, nodding to the Dormouse.  A decent kid and perhaps
one day he'd play football.

On his way to his Study he met Llewellyn.  Llewellyn leaned back
against the passage wall and drew Jeremy close to him, putting his
arm around his shoulder.

"There's something I want to ask you," he said.  "Look here, will
you come in a lot to our Study next term?"

Jeremy hesitated.

"What?" he said at last.

"Come in often to our Study.  Corner doesn't mind.  There's plenty
of room."

A pleasant idea.  He would escape some of Gauntlet's company.
Llewellyn's Study was twice as big as his own.  Corner would be
able to tell him lots of things he wanted to know. . . .  He LIKED
Llewellyn.

But the pressure of Llewellyn's hand on his shoulder irritated him.
He had noticed, already, that Llewellyn was inclined to be "soppy"
and Corner wouldn't like it.  Not if he came in too much. . . .  He
moved a little away.

"That's frightfully decent of you, Llewellyn," he said.  "Only--"
he paused awkwardly.  "I think I won't just yet, if you don't mind.
Chaps will think I am putting on side going about much with you and
Corner."

"What does it matter what chaps say?" asked Llewellyn.

"No, I know, but you see I've had a bit of a row this term, as it
is.  All that dust up with Staire, and I'm sick of it."

"I don't see that that's any reason," said Llewellyn, rather
sulkily.

"And then there's Corner," Jeremy went on.  "It's awfully decent of
him.  He may think he doesn't mind but he WOULD mind afterwards.
He's leaving after the summer term, isn't he?"

"Yes, but so am I," said Llewellyn.

"I think I won't come much at present, if you don't mind," said
Jeremy amiably.  Llewellyn was inclined to be sulky.

"All right," he said, moving.  "Have it your own way."

But he was too truly good-natured and good-hearted to keep it up.
"Will you write to me in the hols. if I do to you?" he asked.

"Of course," said Jeremy laughing.

"I'd like you to come and stay with my people," Llewellyn said.

"All right!  Thanks!"  But Jeremy knew that he wouldn't go.
Llewellyn seemed to want to say something more.  But he didn't.  He
moved, lumbering, away.


3


They had had to wait until the House bell rang, then they poured
into the dining hall and the whole glorious scene burst upon them.

The long room was hung with coloured festoons and the tables
covered with crackers and starred with bowls of chrysanthemums.
More satisfying than the chrysanthemums were the dishes of trifle,
the great piles of fruit--oranges and apples and bananas--and the
almonds and raisins.

Leeson was already standing at the head of the top table when the
boys poured in, and, one on either side of him, were the two guests
of honour, a long, thin man with a humorous mouth and a stout, red-
faced man with chubby cheeks and a rather self-satisfied manner.
One of these men Jeremy knew well and was delighted to see there.
He came down every Christmas.  His name was Pothshorn.  He was an
artist in London who drew pictures for books.  The only artist
beside Uncle Samuel Jeremy had ever seen.  But the point about him
was not that he was an artist but that he was a gloriously funny
fellow, and he would stand up later on, when the "feed" was over,
and tell marvellous stories and recite most amusing poems--all the
time with that serious, long face and odd protesting mouth.  He
was, in fact, Leeson's special pride.  Everyone from the oldest boy
to the smallest loved him and it was no proper House Supper if he
were not present.

The other guest, so Jeremy was informed, was a man who wrote
stories and made money by writing them.  He looked as though he
made a lot of money and as though he liked himself for doing it.
He looked, Jeremy thought, as though he wanted everybody to be fond
of him, but it would be easier on the whole to be fond of old
Pothshorn.  The stout writing man had been at Crale years ago.  He
beamed on everybody as though they ought all to be jolly glad that
at last he had come back. . . .  Small boys are very sharp; they
all felt this and determined not to show him any feeling at all.

However, after Leeson had said the Grace and they all sat down, the
honoured guests didn't matter in the least--they were completely
forgotten.

Jeremy was as happy as it is possible for a mortal to be.

"'Am, Tongue or Chicken?" said 'Appy Alfred, breathing hard behind
his ear.  ('Appy Alfred was the Leeson Boots, general factotum,
male "Marchioness" of the pantry.)

"Tongue AND Chicken," said Jeremy hopefully.

Jumbo was sitting next to him, Llewellyn gesticulating to him from
higher up the table, lots of people beaming or flicking bread
pellets or calling out. . . .  He was popular to-night, and after
all the troubles of the term he liked to feel that he was.

Staire was almost opposite to him, looking smarter in a
magnificently shining Eton collar than anyone else in the place.
Jeremy had lost all his troubled feeling about Staire.  Staire
didn't trouble him any longer.  But he didn't LIKE Staire.  And he
never would.  He saw with pleasure that they'd given him a wing
instead of a leg.  No, he'd never like Staire, but the storm
between them was over because they respected one another now.
That's what a fight did.  It made you respect the other man.

He had, however, but little time for these mysterious speculations.
The most wonderful orangeade was going round in huge glass
tumblers, and after the chicken there were pâtés, and after the
pâtés more chicken, and after the chicken more tongue, and after
the tongue TRIFLE, and after the trifle MORE TRIFLE, and after More
Trifle a THIRD HELPING.

Then there were apples, oranges, bananas, almonds and raisins, and
NUTS.  By this time the noise was very general.

Any stiffness that there had been in any direction was now entirely
dissipated, and it was remarkable to witness how Ma Bender (no
relation, by the way, of the footballer who, although he was in
another House, had suffered a good deal from this strange
coincidence of names) bridled and giggled and bridled again with
the stout novelist who obviously felt it his duty to be amiable
with everyone, so that everyone might say how amiable he was; and
how Mrs. Leeson, who was known scholastically as the Crocodile,
because of her scaly exterior, threw off her armour and dallied
like a naiad with prefects like old Llewellyn, who happened to be
sitting near to her.

Now, if there was one thing that Jeremy loved it was for everyone
to be happy, and happy to-night certainly everyone was.  He could
feel the happiness surging all around him.  He felt as though
everyone wanted to burst out singing and very soon everyone
would. . . .

But first Leeson had to make his speech.  He got up, banged on the
table for silence, then told them all about the Term.  The things
that he had to tell them would not, in ordinary times, have seemed
very interesting, but to-night, elated with orangeade and trifle,
damp with heat and excitement, every sort of gay colour floating
before your eyes, an extraordinary sentiment of "House" rose in
your heart.

Dear old House!  What wouldn't you do for it!  Dear old House with
all its tradition and friendship and future history . . . which YOU
were going to help to make in the future mark you.  That was what
Paddy was at this very moment saying.

"There's not a boy among you, however young, who hasn't his part
to play in making this House something that England may be proud
of. . . ."

Oh yes, he said all this word for word every year, and once the
House Supper was over it seemed Poppycock to you and Soppy.  But
to-night there was more in it for Jeremy than usual.  As he sat
cracking nuts, a red-paper cap set rakishly over one ear, he felt
that he would do a lot for the House in the future--oh yes, he
would.  Someone was kicking him under the table and he kicked
vigorously back.

But now Paddy had come to the bit about the Match.

"We were fortunate to have more boys in the Callendar Match this
term than any other House!"

THEN you could have heard the cheering!  Didn't everybody yell?
And then suddenly everyone rose and sang, "For they are Jolly Good
Fellows" and the five men who had played in the Match were forced
to sit there and look foolish.  Jeremy had attempted to rise but
was energetically held down.  "Good old Stocky!" someone near him
cried, and people punched him and grinned at him and threw nut-
shells at him, and even Staire condescended to smile and say
something or other.  Oh yes! a fine affair and Jeremy enjoyed it.

When this had subsided Leeson passed on to the honoured guest who
wrote stories in London.  He had not, it seemed, been at Crale for
very long but they were all glad to welcome him back again (to
judge from his figure and grey hair he had been away for a
considerable time).

Then the honoured writer of stories rose and made everyone
uncomfortable by his allusions to "the dear old school," and "how
proud we shall all be," and "every stone of the dear old buildings
had its history," and "after all she was our mother," and "what it
meant to him to be here again," and "he was the friend of each one
of them."

Everyone was terribly glad when he sat down again, smiling upon
everyone in the room as though he had begotten the lot of them.
"He's jolly pleased with himself," Jumbo whispered to Jeremy.

"You bet he is," Jeremy whispered back.

But Pothshorn, then rising, made everything right again.  He had a
little stutter which was charming and he didn't even mention his
feelings.  On the contrary he began at once to tell a little story
about an old woman who had two cows, one called Lucy and one called
Isabel, and how Isabel . . . but never mind, it wasn't the story so
much as the way he told it.  "Well, that's a n-new story," he said
when he finished.  "Which old o-one would you like?"

That's what everyone loved--to be asked to choose.  Therefore
everyone shouted "The one about the railway station!"  "The Painter
and his Box of Paints!" "Lost in London!" . . .  They knew them
all, as why shouldn't they when he had told them to them over and
over again?

Then, best of all, his face solemn and even mournful, his long thin
body still and funereal, he recited "The Walrus and the Carpenter"--
a marvellous performance, and then, at the last, gave them "His
Adventures in the Country"--how he stayed in a cottage and of the
things that came out of the thatch and the old woman who lost his
clothes and the savage dog who kept him in bed in terror until mid-
day.  Ah! but this was wonderful!  Jeremy sat there absorbed, lost,
his eyes bursting out of his head, his mouth wide open.  Jumbo
whispered something and without taking his eyes away from Mr.
Pothshorn he whispered back, "Oh shut up!"  How marvellous to be
able to do this, to imitate the old woman, and the cow, and the
cat, and the parrot screaming "I saw you, you dirty dog!" and the
postman with the letters and no roof to his mouth. . . .  So long
as it lasted he was transported there, abandoned, out of his own
body.  When it was over Jeremy sat back with a sigh.  Oh! if he
could only do that!  Perhaps he could.  He would try, when he was
at home.  Maybe the stage was after all his true career.

As Pothshorn gathered together his long body and sat down Jeremy,
staring at him, envied him more than anyone else in the world.


4


Now was the time when people could go out if they wished to.
Jeremy was one of those who so desired, partly because he wanted
some fresh air and partly because he was not sure whether he were
not going to be sick.

He slipped quietly away, down the passage, out into Coulter's.

The fresh air at once restored him.  And what a night!  The sky was
simply plastered with stars, as though you'd stuck them on with a
shovel.  It was deliciously quiet and cool.  In the distance
singing could be heard.  All the Houses to-night were having their
Suppers.  Soon they would be singing at their own Supper and how
Jeremy loved that!  Lifting his voice to its full--"John Peel," and
"Forty Years On," and "Hearts of Oak," and "Sally in our Alley,"
and "It's my delight," and "Crale for ever, Free and Strong."

But before he went back he would stand there a moment and sniff the
clean air and feel the stars.  That other part of him that was
unusual, shy, reticent, full of emotion that mustn't be expressed,
was drawn out of him by the beauty and splendour of the night.

He didn't often think of himself, but just at this moment he
considered the term, the most dramatic and eventful that he had
ever known at Crale.  Yes, in spite of some things it had been a
good term, but why had it been odd and strange and bewildering?

With a flash of comprehension he realized.  His childhood was over.
He wasn't to be a kid any longer.  He was on the way to manhood.
Other people realized it.  He realized it himself.

He knew it in his relation to games, work, the school; and he saw
it in the relation of Leeson, Llewellyn, Jumbo to himself.  There
was something odd there, something that had shut him up inside
himself so that, with the exception of Uncle Samuel, he seemed to
be able to give his real feelings to no one.  Only there was Ridley
to whom he had never spoken.  That would give him what he wanted.
He could tell Ridley things. . . .

And then the amazing, blinding coincidence occurred, something
that made him in after years, when people said that coincidences
in books were ridiculous, answer "I don't know. . . .  They DO
happen. . . ."

He turned to go in because it was cold and ran straight into
someone who came round the corner.

"Hullo!  Look out!" said the someone, catching him by the arm.

It was Ridley!

He stood, holding his arm, trying to see who it was.

"Sorry," said Jeremy.  "I didn't see you."

"That's all right," said Ridley.

"I say--" Jeremy began.  His heart was beating wildly.  He was
oddly afraid.

"Yes?" said Ridley, visible now from the lamp at Leeson's corner.

"I'm Cole. . . .  I--I just came out for a moment.  It was hot in
there."

"Yes?" said Ridley again.  Then, very pleasantly:  "You're the
football Cole, aren't you?  I've seen you in Chapel."

"I've seen you, too," said Jeremy.  "Lots of times.  I've wanted to
speak to you--often."

"Have you?" said Ridley.  "Why?"

"I don't know," said Jeremy.  "I'd awfully like to talk to you
sometimes, though."

Ridley laughed.  "Well, you can if you want to," he said.

"Next term," Jeremy went on.  "Would you think it awful cheek if--
would you mind if--could we go for a walk one Sunday?"

"Of course," said Ridley, laughing again.  "You'll find me awfully
dull."

"Oh no I won't," said Jeremy fervently.

"Right.  It's your risk.  Any time you like."

"Thanks most frightfully," said Jeremy.

There was a pause.

"Good night," Ridley said.

"Good night," Jeremy answered.

Then, happier than he had ever been in all his life before, he went
into Leeson's.



THE END




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