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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter I - MAINLY ABOUT FENN
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter I - MAINLY ABOUT FENN Post by :spublish Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3408

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter I - MAINLY ABOUT FENN

CHAPTER I - MAINLY ABOUT FENN


"When we get licked tomorrow by half-a-dozen wickets," said Jimmy
Silver, lilting his chair until the back touched the wall, "don't say
I didn't warn you. If you fellows take down what I say from time to
time in note-books, as you ought to do, you'll remember that I offered
to give anyone odds that Kay's would out us in the final. I always
said that a really hot man like Fenn was more good to a side than
half-a-dozen ordinary men. He can do all the bowling and all the
batting. All the fielding, too, in the slips."

Tea was just over at Blackburn's, and the bulk of the house had gone
across to preparation in the school buildings. The prefects, as was
their custom, lingered on to finish the meal at their leisure. These
after-tea conversations were quite an institution at Blackburn's. The
labours of the day were over, and the time for preparation for the
morrow had not yet come. It would be time to be thinking of that in
another hour. Meanwhile, a little relaxation might be enjoyed.
Especially so as this was the last day but two of the summer term, and
all necessity for working after tea had ceased with the arrival of the
last lap of the examinations.

Silver was head of the house, and captain of its cricket team, which
was nearing the end of its last match, the final for the inter-house
cup, and--on paper--getting decidedly the worst of it. After riding in
triumph over the School House, Bedell's, and Mulholland's, Blackburn's
had met its next door neighbour, Kay's, in the final, and, to the
surprise of the great majority of the school, was showing up badly.
The match was affording one more example of how a team of average
merit all through may sometimes fall before a one-man side.
Blackburn's had the three last men on the list of the first eleven,
Silver, Kennedy, and Challis, and at least nine of its representatives
had the reputation of being able to knock up a useful twenty or thirty
at any time. Kay's, on the other hand, had one man, Fenn. After him
the tail started. But Fenn was such an exceptional all-round man that,
as Silver had said, he was as good as half-a-dozen of the Blackburn's
team, equally formidable whether batting or bowling--he headed the
school averages at both. He was one of those batsmen who seem to know
exactly what sort of ball you are going to bowl before it leaves your
hand, and he could hit like another Jessop. As for his bowling, he
bowled left hand--always a puzzling eccentricity to an undeveloped
batsman--and could send them down very fast or very slow, as he
thought best, and it was hard to see which particular brand he was
going to serve up before it was actually in mid-air.

But it is not necessary to enlarge on his abilities. The figures
against his name in _Wisden prove a good deal. The fact that he
had steered Kay's through into the last round of the house-matches
proves still more. It was perfectly obvious to everyone that, if only
you could get Fenn out for under ten, Kay's total for that innings
would be nearer twenty than forty. They were an appalling side. But
then no house bowler had as yet succeeded in getting Fenn out for
under ten. In the six innings he had played in the competition up to
date, he had made four centuries, an eighty, and a seventy.

Kennedy, the second prefect at Blackburn's, paused in the act of
grappling with the remnant of a pot of jam belonging to some person
unknown, to reply to Silver's remarks.

"We aren't beaten yet," he said, in his solid way. Kennedy's chief
characteristics were solidity, and an infinite capacity for taking
pains. Nothing seemed to tire or discourage him. He kept pegging away
till he arrived. The ordinary person, for instance, would have
considered the jam-pot, on which he was then engaged, an empty
jam-pot. Kennedy saw that there was still a strawberry (or it may have
been a section of a strawberry) at the extreme end, and he meant to
have that coy vegetable if he had to squeeze the pot to get at it. To
take another instance, all the afternoon of the previous day he had
bowled patiently at Fenn while the latter lifted every other ball into
space. He had been taken off three times, and at every fresh attack he
had plodded on doggedly, until at last, as he had expected, the
batsman had misjudged a straight one, and he had bowled him all over
his wicket. Kennedy generally managed to get there sooner or later.

"It's no good chucking the game up simply because we're in a tight
place," he said, bringing the spoon to the surface at last with the
section of strawberry adhering to the end of it. "That sort of thing's
awfully feeble."

"He calls me feeble!" shouted Jimmy Silver. "By James, I've put a man
to sleep for less."

It was one of his amusements to express himself from time to time in a
melodramatic fashion, sometimes accompanying his words with suitable
gestures. It was on one of these occasions--when he had assumed at a
moment's notice the _role of the "Baffled Despot", in an
argument with Kennedy in his study on the subject of the house
football team--that he broke what Mr Blackburn considered a valuable
door with a poker. Since then he had moderated his transports.

"They've got to make seventy-nine," said Kennedy.

Challis, the other first eleven man, was reading a green scoring-book.

"I don't think Kay's ought to have the face to stick the cup up in
their dining-room," he said, "considering the little they've done to
win it. If they _do win it, that is. Still, as they made two
hundred first innings, they ought to be able to knock off
seventy-nine. But I was saying that the pot ought to go to Fenn. Lot
the rest of the team had to do with it. Blackburn's, first innings,
hundred and fifty-one; Fenn, eight for forty-nine. Kay's, two hundred
and one; Fenn, a hundred and sixty-four not out. Second innings,
Blackburn's hundred and twenty-eight; Fenn ten for eighty. Bit thick,
isn't it? I suppose that's what you'd call a one-man team."

Williams, one of the other prefects, who had just sat down at the
piano for the purpose of playing his one tune--a cake-walk, of which,
through constant practice, he had mastered the rudiments--spoke over
his shoulder to Silver.

"I tell you what, Jimmy," he said, "you've probably lost us the pot by
getting your people to send brother Billy to Kay's. If he hadn't kept
up his wicket yesterday, Fenn wouldn't have made half as many."

When his young brother had been sent to Eckleton two terms before,
Jimmy Silver had strongly urged upon his father the necessity of
placing him in some house other than Blackburn's. He felt that a head
of a house, even of so orderly and perfect a house as Blackburn's, has
enough worries without being saddled with a small brother. And on the
previous afternoon young Billy Silver, going in eighth wicket for
Kay's, had put a solid bat in front of everything for the space of one
hour, in the course of which he made ten runs and Fenn sixty. By
scoring odd numbers off the last ball of each over, Fenn had managed
to secure the majority of the bowling in the most masterly way.

"These things will happen," said Silver, resignedly. "We Silvers, you
know, can't help making runs. Come on, Williams, let's have that tune,
and get it over."

Williams obliged. It was a classic piece called "The Coon Band
Contest", remarkable partly for a taking melody, partly for the vast
possibilities of noise which it afforded. Williams made up for his
failure to do justice to the former by a keen appreciation of the
latter. He played the piece through again, in order to correct the
mistakes he had made at his first rendering of it. Then he played it
for the third time to correct a new batch of errors.

"I should like to hear Fenn play that," said Challis. "You're awfully
good, you know, Williams, but he might do it better still."

"Get him to play it as an encore at the concert," said Williams,
starting for the fourth time.

The talented Fenn was also a musician,--not a genius at the piano, as
he was at cricket, but a sufficiently sound performer for his age,
considering that he had not made a special study of it. He was to play
at the school concert on the following day.

"I believe Fenn has an awful time at Kay's," said Jimmy Silver. "It
must be a fair sort of hole, judging from the specimens you see
crawling about in Kay caps. I wish I'd known my people were sending
young Billy there. I'd have warned them. I only told them not to sling
him in here. I had no idea they'd have picked Kay's."

"Fenn was telling me the other day," said Kennedy, "that being in
Kay's had spoiled his whole time at the school. He always wanted to
come to Blackburn's, only there wasn't room that particular term. Bad
luck, wasn't it? I don't think he found it so bad before he became
head of the house. He didn't come into contact with Kay so much. But
now he finds that he can't do a thing without Kay buzzing round and
interfering."

"I wonder," said Jimmy Silver, thoughtfully, "if that's why he bowls
so fast. To work it off, you know."

In the course of a beautiful innings of fifty-three that afternoon,
the captain of Blackburn's had received two of Fenn's speediest on the
same spot just above the pad in rapid succession, and he now hobbled
painfully when he moved about.

The conversation that evening had dealt so largely with Fenn--the
whole school, indeed, was talking of nothing but his great attempt to
win the cricket cup single-handed--that Kennedy, going out into the
road for a breather before the rest of the boarders returned from
preparation, made his way to Kay's to see if Fenn was imitating his
example, and taking the air too.

He found him at Kay's gate, and they strolled towards the school
buildings together. Fenn was unusually silent.

"Well?" said Kennedy, after a minute had passed without a remark.

"Well, what?"

"What's up?"

Fenn laughed what novelists are fond of calling a mirthless laugh.

"Oh, I don't know," he said; "I'm sick of this place."

Kennedy inspected his friend's face anxiously by the light of the lamp
over the school gate. There was no mistake about it. Fenn certainly
did look bad. His face always looked lean and craggy, but tonight
there was a difference. He looked used up.

"Fagged?" asked Kennedy.

"No. Sick."

"What about?"

"Everything. I wish you could come into Kay's for a bit just to see
what it's like. Then you'd understand. At present I don't suppose
you've an idea of it. I'd like to write a book on 'Kay Day by Day'.
I'd have plenty to put in it."

"What's he been doing?"

"Oh, nothing out of the ordinary run. It's the fact that he's always
at it that does me. You get a houseful of--well, you know the sort of
chap the average Kayite is. They'd keep me busy even if I were allowed
a free hand. But I'm not. Whenever I try and keep order and stop
things a bit, out springs the man Kay from nowhere, and takes the job
out of my hands, makes a ghastly mess of everything, and retires
purring. Once in every three times, or thereabouts, he slangs me in
front of the kids for not keeping order. I'm glad this is the end of
the term. I couldn't stand it much longer. Hullo, here come the chaps
from prep. We'd better be getting back."

Content of CHAPTER I - MAINLY ABOUT FENN (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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