Public School Magazine, May 1901
“THIS,” I murmured to my dear soul, as I heard that a record had been established in the Crick run at Rugby, “is where I come in. To weave a subtle quiddity around the word Crick should be the easiest of tasks. Let me think.” But I had underrated the difficulties, with the result that posterity will have to rub along as best they can without it. I should like to add, however, that I did succeed in producing one rather quaint pun, but it was too delicate and intricate for print. I shall be happy to run through it, with diagrams, for the benefit of such of my readers as may so desire, if they will write and make an appointment any day, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—4, Soho Square, is the address. Take the Tube to Tottenham Court Road, and ask a policeman. I will be ready for you.
When one considers how invariably the thermometer descends to zero on Sports day, it seems strange that no school-story writer has seen what vast possibilities for dramatic episodes there are in the Sports. For instance, take that little thing of my own—I wish some editor would—“The Lads of Larkington.” There is a scene in that story, where the villain in order to win the quarter seizes the hero violently (while a heavy snowstorm conceals the act from the spectators) and throws him quivering into a deep drift. Fine situation that. I think so. Again, you might introduce the element of love. White-haired doctor. Despair. Horror. Where is my daughter? My only daughter. Age immaterial. No markings. Answers to the name of Sophonisba. Can she be in her seat beside the track, lashed by the pitiless storm? Speak, oh! speak. No answer. Next boy. Hero: Unhand me, friends. I will to her rescue. Dashes off. Soon lost to sight. Agonized suspense. But ha! a dim mass looms through the snow. ’Tis he. ’Tis she. ’Tis, in brief, they: My boy, Bleshoo. My child, your feet must be wet through. Run in and change your boots. . . . . Not bad that, eh? Rather dramatic?
I ought not to have gone to that lecture at Haileybury. But the subject, “Sea Dredging” seemed at first sight harmless enough. I had a sort of idea that the lecturer would give some hints on how to bring up mud in buckets, and that sort of thing. Not a bit of it. The title was a mere veneer, a wile of guile. Behind it lurked a withering fire of technical terms which may have been all right but which sounded simply shocking. To one so religiously educated as myself the mere mention of sessile barnacles and polychete worms is horrifying.
“Confound you, sir,” muttered Mr. Rhodes to me testily, as we cannoned against one another in the entrance of Lockhart’s cocoa palace just now. Then he saw who I was. “Oh! It’s you, is it, Point? Just the man I wanted to see. Wanted to ask you what you think of this new scholarship of mine.” And in spite of my remonstrances he drew from his pocket a large prospectus. “None of your mere bookworms need apply,” said he, “No, sir!”
“But look here,” I remarked, “Are you absolutely certain this is all right? I don’t like the idea of a youth full of kindliness and so on, and exhibiting instincts to take an interest in his school mates. He’ll either be snatched up in a fiery chariot to a better land, or, mark my words, Cecil, his ‘schoolmates’ will lynch him.”
“Hum! think so?”
“I do, really. You go and ponder about the matter over a small cocoa.” And we parted. Cecil is in many ways a lad of parts, but, if he offers prizes for “qualities of manhood” to be decided by ballot among the students, he will go far towards forfeiting the esteem in which I hold him. One can almost see Jones waylaying Smith with the words, “You jolly well plump for my kindliness or gentleness, or I’ll slay you.” One’s life will not be worth a minute’s purchase.
It is all very well for eight Sedberghians to protest that they do not believe in ghosts, as they did in the course of a recent debate, but lock each of the eight separately in a haunted room at night, and desire them (through the keyhole) to repeat their statements and illustrate with map, and where would they be then? As for me, I do believe in ghosts, and I don’t care who knows it. I was a sceptic once, but the following story converted me. There was, so runs the legend, a man. (There were also at the same time several other men hanging about the world, but you keep your eye on this particular one.) He had a great college friend, and they swore an oath that whoever should die first would look the other up in a friendly sort of way, and let him know, and so on. Well, one day, friend B was sitting in his room, when he suddenly experienced an odd feeling that he was not alone, and, looking over his shoulder, he saw friend A sitting in a chair by the table. After a short stay of three seconds the figure vanished. B looked at the clock. It was exactly twenty-one minutes past two. He rushed off to the telegraph office and sent off the following wire: “To A. Blankshire. Did you die at exactly twenty-one minutes past two to-day? Reply paid.” After a few hours the reply came: “Dear B. Nothing to speak of. A.” Of course, A’s unsupported statement proves nothing in itself. But reliable witnesses certify that he actually was alive at the time mentioned. Since then I have believed in ghosts.
Measles (which at present rage throughout the school world) are a nuisance. At first sight they seem acceptable enough, but after a week or so they pale. To miss three weeks work is very well, but it does not recompense the sufferer for the pleasures of life which he is obliged to forfeit. The fact of the matter is that they are too thorough. What is wanted is a form of measles that will see you through a tight place in the exams., and, having done so, with leave you with natural vigour unabated, in perfect condition for the Sports. German measles have their points, but even they are not quite the right thing. After some thought I have come to the conclusion that the flaw in the present system is the spots. You find yourself unable to cope with a Latin prose. So you go to the doctor and say: “Behold me. I have measles. Let me to the sanatorium.” “Nay,” replies he, “Get thou behind me. Where are thy spots?” And you retire abashed, either in search of someone who really has got spots and can spare you a few, or else back again to the trivial round and the common task. Now, do away with the spots, and what happens? You go again to the doctor and say: “Spots are a relic of an effete barbarism and, as such, out of date. I have a sore throat and that tired feeling. Let me to the sanatorium.” “Yes,” replies he, “you look pale. Get thee to thy couch, and I will send in jellies, and eke beef-tea.” You spend a happy week in bed, and return to health again in time to win the mile in 4.22. Mark my words, if nature does not see her way to altering the existing state of affairs soon, she will find herself left behind. Some rival firm with more up-to-dateness about it will bring out a superior article, and Nature and Co. will be wound up.