The Boys’ Friend (UK), 6 January 1923
The 1st Chapter.
The Fifteenth Place.
“Don’t be an idiot, man! I bagged it first.”
“My dear chap, I’ve been waiting here a month.”
“When you fellows have quite finished rotting about in front of that bath, don’t let me detain you.”
“Anybody seen that sponge?”
“Well, look here”—this in a tone of compromise—“let’s toss for it.”
“All right. Odd man out.”
All of which, being interpreted, meant that the first match of the Easter term had just come to an end, and that those of the team who, being day boys, changed over at the pavilion, instead of performing the operation at leisure and in comfort, as did the members of Houses, were discussing the vital question—who was to have first bath?
The Field Sports Committee at Wrykyn—that is, at the school which stood some half-mile outside that town and took its name from it—were not lavish in their expenditure as regarded the changing accommodation in the pavilion. Letters appeared in every second number of the “Wrykinian” some short, others long, some from members of the school, others from Old Boys, all protesting against the conditions of the first, second, and third fifteen dressing-rooms. “Indignant” would inquire acidly, in half a page of small type, if the editor happened to be aware that there was no hairbrush in the second room, and only half a comb. “Disgusted O. W.” would remark that when he came down with the Wandering Zephyrs to play against the third fifteen, the water supply had suddenly and mysteriously failed, and the W. Z.’s had been obliged to go home as they were in a state of primeval grime, and he thought that this was “a very bad thing in a school of over six hundred boys,” though what the number of boys had to do with the fact that there was no water he omitted to explain. The editor would express his regret in brackets, and things would go on as before.
There was only one bath in the first fifteen room, and there were on the present occasion six claimants to it. And each claimant was of the fixed opinion that, whatever happened subsequently, he was going to have it first. Finally, on the suggestion of Otway, who had reduced tossing to a fine art, a mystic game of Tommy Dodd was played. Otway having triumphantly obtained first innings, the conversation reverted to the subject of the match.
The Easter term always opened with a scratch game against a mixed team of masters and Old Boys, and the school usually won without any great exertion. On this occasion the match had been rather more even than the average, and the team had only just pulled the thing off by a couple of tries to a goal. Otway expressed an opinion that the school had played badly.
“Why on earth don’t you forwards let the ball out occasionally?” he asked.
Otway was one of the first fifteen halves.
“They were so jolly heavy in the scrum,” said Maurice, one of the forwards. “And when we did let it out the outsides nearly always mucked it.”
“Well, it wasn’t the halves’ fault. We always got it out to the centres.”
“It wasn’t the centres,” put in Robinson. “They played awfully well. Trevor was ripping!”
“Trevor always is,” said Otway; “I should think he’s about the best captain we’ve had here for a long time. He’s certainly one of the best centres.”
“Best there’s been since Rivers-Jones,” said Clephane.
Rivers-Jones was one of those players who mark an epoch. He had been in the team fifteen years ago, and had left Wrykyn to captain Cambridge and play three years in succession for Wales. The school regarded the standard set by him as one that did not admit of comparison. However good a Wrykyn centre three-quarter might be, the most he could hope to be considered was “the best since Rivers-Jones.” “Since” Rivers-Jones, however, covered fifteen years, and to be looked on as the best centre the school could boast of during that time meant something. For Wrykyn knew how to play football.
Since it had been decided thus that the faults in the school attack did not lie with the halves, forwards, or centres, it was more or less evident that they must be attributable to the wings. And the search for the weak spot was even further narrowed down by the general verdict that Clowes, on the left wing, had played well. With a beautiful unanimity the six occupants of the first fifteen room came to the conclusion that the man who had let the team down that day had been the man on the right—Rand-Brown, to wit, of Seymour’s.
“I’ll bet he doesn’t stay in the first long,” said Clephane, who was now in the bath, vice Otway, retired. “I suppose they had to try him, as he was the senior wing three-quarter of the second, but he’s no earthly good.”
“He only got into the second because he’s big,” was Robinson’s opinion. “A man who’s big and strong can always get his second colours.”
“Even if he’s a funk, like Rand-Brown,” said Clephane. “Did any of you chaps notice the way he let Paget through that time he scored for them? He simply didn’t attempt to tackle him. He could have brought him down like a shot if he’d only gone for him. Paget was running straight along the touch-line, and hadn’t any room to dodge. I know Trevor was jolly sick about it. And then he let him through once before in just the same way in the first half, only Trevor got round and stopped him. He was rank.”
“Missed every other pass, too,” said Otway.
Clephane summed up.
“He was rank,” he said again. “Trevor won’t keep him in the team long.”
“I wish Paget hadn’t left,” said Otway.
Paget was the wing three quarter who, by leaving unexpectedly at the end of the Christmas term, had let Rand-Brown into the team, and his loss was likely to be felt. Up till Christmas Wrykyn had done well, Paget had been their scoring man. Rand-Brown had occupied a similar position in the second fifteen. He was big and speedy, and in second fifteen matches these qualities make up for a great deal. If a man scores one or two tries in nearly every match, people are inclined to overlook in him such failings as timidity and clumsiness. It is only when he comes to be tried in football of a higher class that he is seen through. In the second fifteen the fact that Rand-Brown was afraid to tackle his man had almost escaped notice. But the habit would not do in first fifteen circles.
“All the same,” said Clephane, pursuing his subject, “if they don’t play him, I don’t see who they’re going to get. He’s the best of the second three-quarters, as far as I can see.”
It was this very problem that was puzzling Trevor, as he walked off the field with Paget and Clowes when they had got into their blazers after the match. Clowes was in the same House as Trevor—Donaldson’s—and Paget was staying there, too. He had been head of Donaldson’s up to Christmas.
“It strikes me,” said Paget, “the school haven’t got over the holidays yet. I never saw such a lot of slackers! You ought to have taken thirty points off the sort of team you had against you to-day.”
“Have you ever known the school play well on the second day of term?” asked Clowes. “The forwards always play as if the whole thing bored them to death.”
“It wasn’t the forwards that mattered so much,” said Trevor. “They’ll shake down all right after a few matches. A little running and passing will put them right.”
“Let’s hope so,” Paget observed, “or we might as well scratch to Ripton at once. There’s a jolly sight too much of the mince-pie and Christmas pudding about their play at present.”
There was a pause. Then Paget brought out the question towards which he had been moving all the time.
“What do you think of Rand-Brown?” he asked.
It was pretty clear by the way he spoke what he thought of that player himself, but in discussing with a football captain the capabilities of the various members of his team, it is best to avoid a too positive statement one way or the other before one has heard his views on the subject. And Paget was one of those people who like to know the opinions of others before committing themselves.
Clowes, on the other hand, was in the habit of forming his views on his own account, and expressing them. If people agreed with them, well and good; it afforded strong presumptive evidence of their sanity. If they disagreed, it was unfortunate, but he was not going to alter his opinions for that, unless convinced at great length that they were unsound. He summed things up, and gave you the result. You could take it or leave it, as you preferred.
“I thought he was bad,” said Clowes.
“Bad!” exclaimed Trevor. “He was a disgrace. One can understand a chap having his off-days at any game, but one doesn’t expect a man in the Wrykyn first to funk. He mucked five out of every six passes I gave him, too, and the ball wasn’t a bit slippery. Still, I shouldn’t mind that so much if he had only gone for his man properly. It isn’t being out of practice that makes you funk. And even when he did have a try at you, Paget, he always went high.”
“That,” said Clowes thoughtfully, “would seem to show that he was game.”
Nobody as much as smiled. Nobody ever did smile at Clowes’ essays in wit, perhaps because of the solemn, almost sad tone of voice in which he delivered them. He was tall and dark and thin, and had a pensive eye, which encouraged the more soulful of his female relatives to entertain hopes that he would some day take orders.
“Well,” said Paget, relieved at finding that he did not stand alone in his opinion of Rand-Brown’s performance, “I must say I thought he was awfully bad myself.”
“I shall try somebody else next match,” said Trevor. “It’ll be rather hard, though. The man one would naturally put in, Bryce, left at Christmas, worse luck.”
Bryce was the other wing three-quarter of the second fifteen.
“Isn’t there anybody in the third?” asked Paget.
“Barry,” said Clowes briefly.
“Clowes thinks Barry’s good,” explained Trevor.
“He is good,” said Clowes.
“The question is, would he be any good in the first? A chap might do jolly well for the third, and still not be worth trying for the first.”
“I don’t remember much about Barry,” said Paget, “except being collared by him when we played Seymour’s last year in the final. I certainly came away with a sort of impression that he could tackle. I thought he marked me jolly well.”
“There you are, then,” said Clowes. “A year ago Barry could tackle Paget. There’s no reason for supposing that he’s fallen off since then. We’ve seen that Rand-Brown can’t tackle Paget. Ergo, Barry is better worth playing for the team than Rand-Brown. Q.E.D.”
“All right, then,” replied Trevor. “There can’t be any harm in trying him. We’ll have another scratch game on Thursday. Will you be here then, Paget?”
“Oh, yes. I’m stopping till Saturday.”
“Good man. Then we shall be able to see how he does against you. I wish you hadn’t left, though, by Jove. We should have had Ripton on toast, the same as last term.”
Wrykyn played five schools, but six school matches. The school that they played twice in the season was Ripton. To win one Ripton match meant that, however many losses it might have sustained in the other matches, the school had had, at any rate, a passable season. To win two Ripton matches in the same year was almost unheard of.
This year there had seemed every likelihood of it. The match before Christmas on the Ripton ground had resulted in a win for Wrykyn by two goals and a try to a try. But the calculations of the school had been upset by the sudden departure of Paget at the end of term, and also of Bryce, who had hitherto been regarded as his understudy.
And in the first Ripton match the two goals had both been scored by Paget, and both had been brilliant bits of individual play, which a lesser man could not have carried through.
The conclusion, therefore, at which the school reluctantly arrived was that their chances of winning the second match could not be judged by their previous success. They would have to approach the Easter term fixture from another—a non-Paget—standpoint. In these circumstances it became a serious problem—who was to get the fifteenth place? Whoever played in Paget’s stead against Ripton would be certain, if the match were won, to receive his colours. Who, then, would fill the vacancy?
“Rand-Brown, of course,” said the crowd.
But the experts, as we have shown, were of a different opinion.
The 2nd Chapter.
The Gold Bat!
Trevor did not take long to resume a garb of civilisation. He never wasted much time over anything. He was gifted with a boundless energy, which might possibly have made him unpopular had he not justified it by results. The football of the school had never been in such a flourishing condition as it had attained to on his succeeding to the captaincy.
It was not only that the first fifteen was good. The excellence of a first fifteen does not always depend on the captain. But the games even down to the very humblest junior game had woken up one morning—at the beginning of the previous term—to find themselves, much to their surprise, organised going concerns.
Like the immortal Captain Pott, Trevor was “a terror to the shirker and the lubber.” And the resemblance was further increased by the fact that he was “a toughish lot,” who was “little, but steel and indiarubber.” At first sight his appearance was not imposing. Paterfamilias, who had heard Young Hopeful’s eulogies on Trevor’s performances during the holidays, and came down to watch the school play a match, was generally rather disappointed on seeing five foot six where he had looked for at least six foot one, and ten stone where he had expected thirteen.
But then, what there was of Trevor was, as previously remarked, steel and indiarubber, and he certainly played football like a miniature Stoddart. It was characteristic of him that, though this was the first match of the term, his condition seemed to be as good as possible. He had done all his own work on the field and most of Rand-Brown’s, and apparently had not turned a hair. He was one of those conscientious people who train in the holidays.
When he had changed he went down the passage to Clowes’ study. Clowes was in the position he frequently took up when the weather was good—wedged into his window in a sitting position, one leg in the study, the other hanging outside over space. The indoor leg lacked a boot, so that it was evident that its owner had at least had the energy to begin to change.
That he had given the thing up after that, exhausted with the effort, was what one naturally expected from Clowes. He would have made a splendid actor; he was so good at resting.
“Hurry up and dress,” said Trevor; “I want you to come over to the baths.”
“What on earth do you want over at the baths?”
“I want to see O’Hara.”
“Oh, yes, I remember. Dexter’s are camping out there, aren’t they? I heard they were. Why is it?”
“One of the Dexter kids got measles in the last week of the holidays, so they shunted all the beds and things across, and the chaps went back there instead of to the House.”
In the winter term the baths were always boarded over and converted into a sort of extra gymnasium where you could go and box or fence when there was no room to do it in the real gymnasium. Socker and stump-cricket were also largely played there, the floor being admirably suited to such games, though the light was always rather tricky, and prevented heavy scoring.
“I should think,” said Clowes, “from what I’ve seen of Dexter’s beauties, that Dexter would like them to camp out at the bottom of the baths all the year round. It would be a happy release for him if they were all drowned. And I suppose if he had to choose any one of them for a violent death he’d pick O’Hara. O’Hara must be a boon to a Housemaster. I’ve known chaps break rules when the spirit moved them, but he’s the only one I’ve met who breaks them all day long and well into the night simply for amusement. I’ve often thought of writing to the S.P.C.A. about it. I suppose you could call Dexter an animal all right?”
“O’Hara’s right enough, really. A man like Dexter would make any fellow run amuck. And then O’Hara’s an Irishman to start with, which makes a difference.”
There is usually one House in every school of the black sheep sort, and, if you go to the root of the matter, you will generally find that the fault is with the master of that House. A Housemaster who enters into the life of his House, coaches them in games—if an athlete—or, if not an athlete, watches the games, umpiring at cricket and refereeing at football, never finds much difficulty in keeping order.
It may be accepted as a fact that the juniors of a House will never be orderly of their own free will, but disturbances in the junior day-room do not make the House undisciplined. The prefects are the criterion. If you find them joining in the general “rags,” and even starting private ones on their own account, then you may safely say that it is time the master of that House retired from the business and took to chicken-farming.
And that was the state of things in Dexter’s. It was the most lawless of the Houses. Mr. Dexter belonged to a type of master almost unknown at a public school—the usher type. In a private school he might have passed. At Wrykyn he was out of place. To him the whole duty of a Housemaster appeared to be to wage war against his House.
When Dexter’s won the final for the cricket cup in the summer term of two years back, the match lasted four afternoons—four solid afternoons of glorious, up-and-down cricket. Dexter did not see a single ball of that match bowled. He was prowling in sequestered lanes and broken-down barns out of bounds on the off-chance that he might catch some member of his House smoking there. As if the whole of the House, from the head to the smallest fag, were not on the field watching Day’s best bats collapse before Henderson’s bowling and Moriarty hit up that marvellous and unexpected fifty-three at the end of the second innings!
That sort of thing definitely stamps a master.
“What do you want to see O’Hara about?” asked Clowes.
“He’s got my little gold bat. I lent it him in the holidays.”
A remark which needs a footnote. The bat referred to was made of gold, and it was about an inch long by an eighth broad. It had come into existence some ten years previously in the following manner. The inter-House cricket cup at Wrykyn had originally been a rather tarnished and unimpressive vessel, whose only merit consisted in the fact that it was of silver. Ten years ago an Old Wrykinian, suddenly reflecting that it would not be a bad idea to do something for the school in a small way, hied him to the nearest jeweller’s and purchased another silver cup, vast withal and cunningly decorated with filigree work, and standing on a massive ebony plinth, round which were little silver lozenges just big enough to hold the name of the winning House and the year of grace. This he presented with his blessing to be competed for by the dozen Houses that made up the school of Wrykyn, and it was formally established as the House cricket cup. The question now arose: what was to be done with the other cup? The School House, who happened to be the holders at the time, suggested disinterestedly that it should become the property of the House which had won it last. “Not so,” replied the Field Sports Committee, “but far otherwise. We will have it melted down in a fiery furnace, and thereafter fashioned into eleven little silver bats. And these little silver bats shall be the guerdon of the eleven members of the winning team, to have and to hold for the space of one year, unless, by winning the cup twice in succession, they gain the right of keeping the bat for yet another year. How is that, umpire?” And the authorities replied, “O men of infinite resource and sagacity, verily is it a cold day when you get left behind. Forge ahead.” But, when they had forged ahead, behold! it would not run to eleven little silver bats, but only to ten little silver bats. Thereupon the Headmaster, a man liberal with his cash, caused an eleventh little bat to be fashioned—for the captain of the winning team to have and to hold in the manner aforesaid. And, to single it out from the others, it was wrought, not of silver, but of gold. And so it came to pass that at the time of our story Trevor was in possession of the little gold bat, because Donaldson’s had won the cup in the previous summer, and he had captained them—and, incidentally, had scored seventy-five without a mistake.
“Well, I’m hanged if I would trust O’Hara with my bat,” said Clowes, referring to the silver ornament on his own watch-chain; “he’s probably pawned yours in the holidays. Why did you lend it to him?”
“His people wanted to see it. I know him at home, you know. They asked me to lunch the last day but one of the holidays, and we got talking about the bat, because, of course, if we hadn’t beaten Dexter’s in the final, O’Hara would have had it himself. So I sent it over next day with a note asking O’Hara to bring it back with him here.”
“Oh, well, there’s a chance, then, seeing he’s only had it so little time, that he hasn’t pawned it yet. You’d better rush off and get it back as soon as possible. It’s no good waiting for me. I sha’n’t be ready for weeks.”
“Teaing with Donaldson. At least, he said he was going to.”
“Then I suppose I shall have to go alone. I hate walking alone.”
“If you hurry,” said Clowes, scanning the road from his post of vantage, “you’ll be able to go with your fascinating pal Ruthven. He’s just gone out.”
Trevor dashed downstairs in his energetic way, and overtook the youth referred to.
Clowes brooded over them from above like a sorrowful and rather disgusted providence. Trevor’s liking for Ruthven, who was a Donaldsonite like himself, was one of the few points on which the two had any real disagreement. Clowes could not understand how any person in his senses could of his own free will make an intimate friend of Ruthven.
“Hullo, Trevor,” said Ruthven.
“Come over to the baths,” said Trevor, “I want to see O’Hara about something. Or were you going somewhere else?”
“I wasn’t going anywhere in particular. I never know what to do in term-time. It’s deadly dull.”
Trevor could never understand how any one could find term-time dull. For his own part, there always seemed too much to do in the time.
“You aren’t allowed to play games?” he said, remembering something about a doctor’s certificate in the past.
“No!” said Ruthven. “Thank goodness,” he added.
Which remark silenced Trevor. To a person who thanked goodness that he was not allowed to play games he could find nothing to say. But he ceased to wonder how it was that Ruthven was dull.
They proceeded to the baths together in silence. O’Hara, they were informed by a Dexter’s fag who met them outside the door, was not about.
“When he comes back,” said Trevor, “tell him I want him to come to tea to-morrow directly after school, and bring my bat. Don’t forget.”
“Come to tea and bring your bat,” repeated the fag obediently; “all right—I won’t forget.”
The 3rd Chapter.
The Mayor’s Statue!
One of the rules that governed the life of Donough O’Hara, the light-hearted descendant of the O’Haras of Castle Taterfields, Co. Clare, Ireland, was “Never refuse the offer of a free tea.” So, on receipt—per the Dexter’s fag referred to—of Trevor’s invitation, he scratched one engagement with his mathematical master—not wholly unconnected with the working-out of Examples 300 to 306 in Hall and Knight’s Algebra—postponed another—with his friend and ally Moriarty, of Dexter’s, who wished to box with him in the gymnasium—and made his way at a leisurely pace towards Donaldson’s. He was feeling particularly pleased with himself to-day, for several reasons. He had begun the day well by scoring brilliantly off Dexter across the matutinal rasher and coffee. In morning school he had been put on to translate the one passage which he happened to have prepared—the first ten lines, in fact, of the hundred which formed the morning’s lesson. And in the final hour of afternoon school, which was devoted to French, he had discovered and exploited with great success an entirely new and original form of ragging. This, he felt, was the strenuous life; this was living one’s life as one’s life should be lived.
He met Trevor at the gate. As they were going in, a carriage and pair dashed past. Its cargo consisted of two people, the Headmaster, looking bored, and a small, dapper man, with a very red face who looked excited and was talking volubly. Trevor and O’Hara raised their caps as the chariot swept by, but the salute passed unnoticed. The Head appeared to be wrapped in thought.
“What’s the Old Man doing in a carriage, I wonder,” said Trevor, looking after them. “Who’s that with him?”
“That,” said O’Hara, “is Sir Eustace Briggs.”
“Who’s Sir Eustace Briggs?”
O’Hara explained, in a rich brogue, that Sir Eustace was Mayor of Wrykyn, a keen politician, and a hater of the Irish nation, judging by his letters and speeches.
They went into Trevor’s study. Clowes was occupying the window in his usual manner.
“Hallo, O’Hara!” he said. “There is an air of quiet satisfaction about you that seems to show that you’ve been ragging Dexter. Have you?”
“Oh, that was only this morning at breakfast. The best rag was in French,” replied O’Hara, who then proceeded to explain in detail the methods he had employed to embitter the existence of the hapless Gallic exile with whom he had come in contact. It was that gentleman’s custom to sit on a certain desk while conducting the lesson. This desk chanced to be O’Hara’s. On the principle that a man may do what he likes with his own, he had entered the room privily in the dinner-hour, and removed the screws from his desk, with the result that for the first half-hour of the lesson the class had been occupied in excavating M. Gandinois from the ruins. That gentleman’s first act on regaining his equilibrium had been to send O’Hara out of the room; and O’Hara, who had foreseen this emergency, had spent a very pleasant half-hour in the passage with some mixed chocolates and a copy of Mr. Hornung’s “Amateur Cracksman.” It was his notion of a cheerful and instructive French lesson.
“What were you talking about when you came in?” asked Clowes. “Who’s been slanging Ireland, O’Hara?”
“The man Briggs.”
“What are you going to do about it? Aren’t you going to take any steps?”
“Is it steps?” asked O’Hara warmly, “and haven’t we——”
“No. Ye’re prefects.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Ye won’t report it?”
“If you want a plug in the eye, George,” said Clowes, “you’ve only to say so, you know. What do you take us for? Go ahead.”
O’Hara explained that he “did but jest.”
“But really, ye know,” he said, seriously, “ye mustn’t let it go any further. I shall get sacked if it’s found out. An’ so will Moriarty, too.”
“Why?” asked Trevor, looking up from the tea-pot he was filling. “What on earth have you been doing?”
“Wouldn’t it be rather a cheery idea,” suggested Clowes, “if you began at the beginning?”
“Well, ye see,” O’Hara began, “it was this way. The first I heard of it was from Dexter. He was trying to score off me as usual, an’ he said, ‘Have ye seen the paper this morning, O’Hara?’ I said, no, I had not. Then he said, ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘ye should look at it. There’s something there that ye’ll find interesting.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir?’ in me respectful way. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘the Irish members have been making their customary disturbances in the House. Why is it, O’Hara,’ he said, ‘that Irishmen are always thrusting themselves forward and making disturbances for the purposes of self-advertisement?’ ‘Why, indeed, sir?’ said I, not knowing what else to say, and after that the conversation ceased.”
“Go on,” said Clowes.
“After breakfast Moriarty came to me with a paper, and showed me what they had been saying about the Irish. There was a letter from the man Briggs on the subject. ‘A very sensible and temperate letter from Sir Eustace Briggs,’ they called it; but bedad, if that was a temperate letter, I should like to know what an intemperate one is. Well, we read it through, and Moriarty said to me, ‘Can we let this stay as it is?’ And I said, ‘No, we can’t!’ ‘Well,’ said Moriarty to me, ’what are we to do about it? I should like to tar and feather the man,’ he said. ‘We can’t do that,’ I said; ‘but why not tar and feather his statue?’ So we thought we would. Ye know where the statue is, I suppose? It’s in the recreation-ground across the river.”
“I know the place,” said Clowes. “Go on. This is ripping. I always knew you were pretty mad, but this sounds as if it were going to beat all previous records.”
“Have ye seen the baths this term,” continued O’Hara, “since they shifted Dexter’s house into them? The beds are in two long rows along each wall. Moriarty’s and mine are the last two at the end furthest from the door.”
“Just under the gallery,” said Trevor. “I see.”
“That’s it. Well, at half-past ten sharp every night Dexter sees that we’re all in, locks the door, and goes off to sleep at the Old Man’s, and we don’t see him again till breakfast. He turns the gas off from outside.”
“Well, directly everybody was asleep last night—it wasn’t till after one, as there was a rag on—Moriarty and I got up, dressed, and climbed up into the gallery. Ye know the gallery windows? They open at the top, an’ it’s rather hard to get out of them. But we managed it, and dropped on to the gravel outside.”
“Long drop,” said Clowes.
“Yes. I hurt myself rather. But it was in a good cause. I dropped first, and while I was on the ground, Moriarty came on top of me. That’s how I got hurt. But it wasn’t much, and we cut across the ground, and over the fence, and down to the river. It was a fine night, and not very dark, and everything smelt ripping down by the river.”
“Don’t get poetical,” said Clowes. “Stick to the point.”
“We got into the boathouse——”
“How?” asked the practical Trevor, for the boathouse was wont to be locked at one in the morning.
“Moriarty had a key that fitted,” explained O’Hara briefly. “We got in, and launched a boat—a big tub—put in the tar and a couple of brushes—there’s always tar in the boathouse—and rowed across.”
“Wait a bit,” interrupted Trevor, “you said tar and feathers. Where did you get the feathers?”
“We used leaves. They do just as well, and there were heaps on the bank. Well, when we landed, we tied up the boat, and bunked across to the recreation ground. We got over the beastly, spiky railings and went over to the statue. Moriarty got up first, and I handed him the tar and a brush. Then I went up with the other brush, and we began. We did his face first. It was too dark to see really well, but I think we made a good job of it. When we had put about as much tar on as we thought would do, we took out the leaves—which we were carrying in our pockets—and spread them on. Then we got into our boat again, and came back.”
“Well, I’m hanged!” was Trevor’s comment on the story.
Clowes roared with laughter. O’Hara was a perpetual joy to him.
As O’Hara was going, Trevor asked him for his gold bat.
“You haven’t lost it, I hope?” he said.
O’Hara felt in his pocket, but brought his hand out at once and transferred it to another pocket. A look of anxiety came over his face, and was reflected in Trevor’s.
“I could have sworn it was in that pocket,” he said.
“You haven’t lost it?” queried Trevor again.
“He has,” said Clowes, confidently. “If you want to know where that bat is, I should say you’d find it somewhere between the baths and the statue. At the foot of the statue, for choice. It seems to me—correct me if I am wrong—that you have been and gone and done it, me broth av a bhoy.”
O’Hara gave up the search.
He was too penitent for words. Clowes took it on himself to point out the bright side.
“There’s nothing to get sick about, really,” he said. “If the thing doesn’t turn up, though it probably will, you’ll simply have to tell the old man that it’s lost. He’ll have another made. You won’t be asked for it till just before sports day either, so you will have plenty of time to find it.”
“Oh, I suppose it’ll be all right,” said Trevor, “but I hope it won’t be found anywhere near the statue.”
O’Hara said he hoped so, too.
(Where has O’Hara lost Trevor’s gold bat, and what will the loss lead to? On no account must you miss next Monday’s extra long instalment of this fine yarn. Ask your newsagent to save a copy of the Boys’ Friend for you!)
Compare the original version from the Captain serialization of The Gold Bat. In the initial chapter at least, there are fewer changes here than in either of the two short stories reprinted in this paper in 1922 which we have on this site; the second and third chapters have minor cuts.
Rebekah at the Annotated Psmith Project has a set of annotations to this story, supplemented by new annotations on this site.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Paper had “Clowes[,] on the left wing had played well”; the brackets denote a comma that printed faintly but was clearly in place. Comma after “wing” added as in original.
Paper had “I wish he hadn’t left” in Trevor’s last speech to Paget in Chapter 1; corrected to “you” as in original.
Picture caption “Rescued from the Wreckage!” had the French master’s name misspelled as Glandinois. Corrected in image to avoid confusion.
Paper had “Dexter did not see a single ball of that matched bowled”; corrected to “match” as in original.