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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter II - AN EVENING AT KAY'S
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter II - AN EVENING AT KAY'S Post by :lorenbaker Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2712

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter II - AN EVENING AT KAY'S

CHAPTER II - AN EVENING AT KAY'S


They turned, and began to walk towards the houses. Kennedy felt
miserable. He never allowed himself to be put out, to any great
extent, by his own worries, which, indeed, had not been very numerous
up to the present, but the misfortunes of his friends always troubled
him exceedingly. When anything happened to him personally, he found
the discomfort of being in a tight place largely counterbalanced by
the excitement of trying to find a way out. But the impossibility of
helping Fenn in any way depressed him.

"It must be awful," he said, breaking the silence.

"It is," said Fenn, briefly.

"But haven't the house-matches made any difference? Blackburn's always
frightfully bucked when the house does anything. You can do anything
you like with him if you lift a cup. I should have thought Kay would
have been all right when he saw you knocking up centuries, and getting
into the final, and all that sort of thing."

Fenn laughed.

"Kay!" he said. "My dear man, he doesn't _know_. I don't suppose
he's got the remotest idea that we are in the final at all, or, if he
has, he doesn't understand what being in the final means."

"But surely he'll be glad if you lick us tomorrow?" asked Kennedy.
Such indifference on the part of a house-master respecting the
fortunes of his house seemed to him, having before him the bright
example of Mr Blackburn almost incredible.

"I don't suppose so," said Fenn. "Or, if he is, I'll bet he doesn't
show it. He's not like Blackburn. I wish he was. Here he comes, so
perhaps we'd better talk about something else."

The vanguard of the boys returning from preparation had passed them,
and they were now standing at the gate of the house. As Fenn spoke, a
little, restless-looking man in cap and gown came up. His clean-shaven
face wore an expression of extreme alertness--the sort of look a ferret
wears as he slips in at the mouth of a rabbit-hole. A doctor, called
upon to sum up Mr Kay at a glance, would probably have said that he
suffered from nerves, which would have been a perfectly correct
diagnosis, though none of the members of his house put his manners and
customs down to that cause. They considered that the methods he
pursued in the management of the house were the outcome of a naturally
malignant disposition. This was, however, not the case. There is no
reason to suppose that Mr Kay did not mean well. But there is no doubt
that he was extremely fussy. And fussiness--with the possible
exceptions of homicidal mania and a taste for arson--is quite the
worst characteristic it is possible for a house-master to possess.

He caught sight of Fenn and Kennedy at the gate, and stopped in his
stride.

"What are you doing here, Fenn?" he asked, with an abruptness which
brought a flush to the latter's face. "Why are you outside the house?"

Kennedy began to understand why it was that his friend felt so
strongly on the subject of his house-master. If this was the sort of
thing that happened every day, no wonder that there was dissension in
the house of Kay. He tried to imagine Blackburn speaking in that way
to Jimmy Silver or himself, but his imagination was unequal to the
task. Between Mr Blackburn and his prefects there existed a perfect
understanding. He relied on them to see that order was kept, and they
acted accordingly. Fenn, by the exercise of considerable self-control,
had always been scrupulously polite to Mr Kay.

"I came out to get some fresh air before lock-up, sir," he replied.

"Well, go in. Go in at once. I cannot allow you to be outside the
house at this hour. Go indoors directly."

Kennedy expected a scene, but Fenn took it quite quietly.

"Good night, Kennedy," he said.

"So long," said Kennedy.

Fenn caught his eye, and smiled painfully. Then he turned and went
into the house.

Mr Kay's zeal for reform was apparently still unsatisfied. He directed
his batteries towards Kennedy.

"Go to your house at once, Kennedy. You have no business out here at
this time."

This, thought Kennedy, was getting a bit too warm. Mr Kay might do as
he pleased with his own house, but he was hanged if he was going to
trample on _him_.

"Mr Blackburn is my house-master, sir," he said with great respect.

Mr Kay stared.

"My house-master," continued Kennedy with gusto, slightly emphasising
the first word, "knows that I always go out just before lock-up, and
he has no objection."

And, to emphasise this point, he walked towards the school buildings
again. For a moment it seemed as if Mr Kay intended to call him back,
but he thought better of it. Mr Blackburn, in normal circumstances a
pacific man, had one touchy point--his house. He resented any
interference with its management, and was in the habit of saying so.
Mr Kay remembered one painful scene in the Masters' Common Room, when
he had ventured to let fall a few well-meant hints as to how a house
should be ruled. Really, he had thought Blackburn would have choked.
Better, perhaps, to leave him to look after his own affairs.

So Mr Kay followed Fenn indoors, and Kennedy, having watched him
vanish, made his way to Blackburn's.

Quietly as Fenn had taken the incident at the gate, it nevertheless
rankled. He read prayers that night in a distinctly unprayerful mood.
It seemed to him that it would be lucky if he could get through to the
end of the term before Mr Kay applied that last straw which does not
break the backs of camels only. Eight weeks' holiday, with plenty of
cricket, would brace him up for another term. And he had been invited
to play for the county against Middlesex four days after the holidays
began. That should have been a soothing thought. But it really seemed
to make matters worse. It was hard that a man who on Monday would be
bowling against Warner and Beldam, or standing up to Trott and Hearne,
should on the preceding Tuesday be sent indoors like a naughty child
by a man who stood five-feet-one in his boots, and was devoid of any
sort of merit whatever.

It seemed to him that it would help him to sleep peacefully that night
if he worked off a little of his just indignation upon somebody. There
was a noise going on in the fags' room. There always was at Kay's. It
was not a particularly noisy noise--considering; but it had better be
stopped. Badly as Kay had treated him, he remembered that he was head
of the house, and as such it behoved him to keep order in the house.

He went downstairs, and, on arriving on the scene of action, found
that the fags were engaged upon spirited festivities, partly in honour
of the near approach of the summer holidays, partly because--miracles
barred--the house was going on the morrow to lift the cricket-cup.
There were a good many books flying about, and not a few slippers.
There was a confused mass rolling in combat on the floor, and the
table was occupied by a scarlet-faced individual, who passed the time
by kicking violently at certain hands, which were endeavouring to drag
him from his post, and shrieking frenzied abuse at the owners of the
said hands. It was an animated scene, and to a deaf man might have
been most enjoyable.

Fenn's appearance was the signal for a temporary suspension of
hostilities.

"What the dickens is all this row about?" he inquired.

No one seemed ready at the moment with a concise explanation. There
was an awkward silence. One or two of the weaker spirits even went so
far as to sit down and begin to read. All would have been well but for
a bright idea which struck some undiscovered youth at the back of the
room.

"Three cheers for Fenn!" observed this genial spirit, in no uncertain
voice.

The idea caught on. It was just what was wanted to give a finish to
the evening's festivities. Fenn had done well by the house. He had
scored four centuries and an eighty, and was going to knock off the
runs against Blackburn's tomorrow off his own bat. Also, he had taken
eighteen wickets in the final house-match. Obviously Fenn was a person
deserving of all encouragement. It would be a pity to let him think
that his effort had passed unnoticed by the fags' room. Happy thought!
Three cheers and one more, and then "He's a jolly good fellow", to
wind up with.

It was while those familiar words, "It's a way we have in the public
scho-o-o-o-l-s", were echoing through the room in various keys, that a
small and energetic form brushed past Fenn as he stood in the doorway,
vainly trying to stop the fags' choral efforts.

It was Mr Kay.

The singing ceased gradually, very gradually. It was some time before
Mr Kay could make himself heard. But after a couple of minutes there
was a lull, and the house-master's address began to be audible.

"...unendurable noise. What is the meaning of it? I will not have it.
Do you hear? It is disgraceful. Every boy in this room will write me
two hundred lines by tomorrow evening. It is abominable, Fenn." He
wheeled round towards the head of the house. "Fenn, I am surprised at
you standing here and allowing such a disgraceful disturbance to go
on. Really, if you cannot keep order better--It is disgraceful,
disgraceful."

Mr Kay shot out of the room. Fenn followed in his wake, and the
procession made its way to the house-masters' study. It had been a
near thing, but the last straw had arrived before the holidays.

Mr Kay wheeled round as he reached his study door.

"Well, Fenn?"

Fenn said nothing.

"Have you anything you wish to say, Fenn?"

"I thought you might have something to say to me, sir."

"I do not understand you, Fenn."

"I thought you might wish to apologise for slanging me in front of the
fags."

It is wonderful what a difference the last straw will make in one's
demeanour to a person.

"Apologise! I think you forget whom it is you are speaking to."

When a master makes this well-worn remark, the wise youth realises
that the time has come to close the conversation. All Fenn's prudence,
however, had gone to the four winds.

"If you wanted to tell me I was not fit to be head of the house, you
needn't have done it before a roomful of fags. How do you think I can
keep order in the house if you do that sort of thing?"

Mr Kay overcame his impulse to end the interview abruptly in order to
put in a thrust.

"You do not keep order in the house, Fenn," he said, acidly.

"I do when I am not interfered with."

"You will be good enough to say 'sir' when you speak to me, Fenn,"
said Mr Kay, thereby scoring another point. In the stress of the
moment, Fenn had not noticed the omission.

He was silenced. And before he could recover himself, Mr Kay was in
his study, and there was a closed, forbidding door between them.

And as he stared at it, it began slowly to dawn upon Fenn that he had
not shown up to advantage in the recent interview. In a word, he had
made a fool of himself.

Content of CHAPTER II - AN EVENING AT KAY'S (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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