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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter V - CAMP
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter V - CAMP Post by :gringo50 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3130

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter V - CAMP

CHAPTER V - CAMP


With the best intentions in the world, however, a headmaster cannot
make a row about a thing unless he is given a reasonable amount of
time to make it in. The concert being on the last evening of term,
there was only a single morning before the summer holidays, and that
morning was occupied with the prize-giving. The school assembled at
ten o'clock with a shadowy hope that this prize-day would be more
exciting than the general run of prize-days, but they were
disappointed. The function passed off without sensation. The
headmaster did not denounce the school in an impassioned speech from
the dais. He did not refer to the events of the previous evening. At
the same time, his demeanour was far from jovial. It lacked that
rollicking bonhomie which we like to see in headmasters on prize-day.
It was evident to the most casual observer that the affair was not
closed. The school would have to pay the bill sooner or later. But
eight weeks would elapse before the day of reckoning, which was a
comforting thought.

The last prize was handed over to its rightful owner. The last and
dullest vote of thanks had been proposed by the last and dullest
member of the board of governors. The Bishop of Rumtifoo (who had been
selected this year to distribute the prizes) had worked off his
seventy minutes' speech (inaudible, of course, as usual), and was
feeling much easier. The term had been formally declared at an end,
and those members of the school corps who were going to camp were
beginning to assemble in front of the buildings.

"I wonder why it always takes about three hours to get us off to the
station," said Jimmy Silver. "I've been to camp two years now, and
there's always been this rotting about in the grounds before we start.
Nobody's likely to turn up to inspect us for the next hour or so. If
any gent cares to put in a modest ginger-beer at the shop, I'm with
him."

"I don't see why we shouldn't," said Kennedy. He had seen Fenn go into
the shop, and wished to talk to him. He had not seen him after the
concert, and he thought it would be interesting to know how Kay had
taken it, and what his comments had been on meeting Fenn in the house
that night.

Fenn had not much to say.

"He was rather worried," he said, grinning as if the recollection of
the interview amused him. "But he couldn't do anything. Of course,
there'll be a row next term, but it can't be helped."

"If I were you," said Silver, "I should point out to them that you'd a
perfect right to play what you liked for an encore. How were you to
know the gallery would go off like that? You aren't responsible for
them. Hullo, there's that bugle. Things seem to be on the move. We
must go."

"So long," said Fenn.

"Goodbye. Mind you come off against Middlesex."

Kennedy stayed for a moment.

"Has the Old Man said anything to you yet?" he asked.

"Not yet. He'll do that next term. It'll be something to look forward
to."

Kennedy hurried off to take his place in the ranks.

Getting to camp at the end of the summer term is always a nuisance.
Aldershot seems a long way from everywhere, and the trains take their
time over the journey. Then, again, the heat always happens to be
particularly oppressive on that day. Snow may have fallen on the day
before, but directly one sets out for camp, the thermometer goes up
into three figures. The Eckleton contingent marched into the lines
damp and very thirsty.

Most of the other schools were already on the spot, and looked as if
they had been spending the last few years there. There was nothing
particular going on when the Eckleton warriors arrived, and everybody
was lounging about in khaki and shirt-sleeves, looking exasperatingly
cool. The only consolation which buoyed up the spirits of Eckleton
was the reflection that in a short space of time, when the
important-looking gentleman in uniform who had come to meet them had
said all he wanted to say on the subject of rules and regulations,
they would be like that too. Happy thought! If the man bucked up and
cut short the peroration, there would be time for a bathe in Cove
Reservoir. Those of the corps who had been to camp in previous years
felt quite limp with the joy of the thought. Why couldn't he get
through with it, and give a fellow a chance of getting cool again?

The gist of the oration was apparently that the Eckleton cadets were
to consider themselves not only as soldiers--and as such subject to
military discipline, and the rules for the conduct of troops quartered
in the Aldershot district--but also as members of a public school. In
short, that if they misbehaved themselves they would get cells, and a
hundred lines in the same breath, as it were.

The corps knew all this ages ago. The man seemed to think he was
telling them something fresh. They began positively to dislike him
after a while.

He finished at last. Eckleton marched off wearily, but in style, to
its lines.

"Dis-miss!"

They did.

"And about time, too," said Jimmy Silver. "I wish they would tie that
man up, or something. He's one of the worst bores I know. He may be
full of bright conversation in private life, but in public he will
talk about his beastly military regulations. You can't stop him. It's
a perfect mania with him. Now, I believe--that's to say, I have a sort
of dim idea--that there's a place round about here called a canteen. I
seem to remember such a thing vaguely. We might go and look for it."

Kennedy made no objection.

This was his first appearance at camp. Jimmy Silver, on the other
hand, was a veteran. He had been there twice before, and meant to go
again. He had a peculiar and extensive knowledge of the ins and outs
of the place. Kennedy was quite willing to take him as his guide. He
was full of information. Kennedy was surprised to see what a number of
men from the other schools he seemed to know. In the canteen there
were, amongst others, a Carthusian, two Tonbridge men, and a
Haileyburian. They all greeted Silver with the warmth of old friends.

"You get to know a lot of fellows in camp," explained Jimmy, as they
strolled back to the Eckleton lines. "That's the best of the place.
Camp's the best place on earth, if only you have decent weather. See
that chap over there? He came here last year. He'd never been before,
and one of the things he didn't know was that Cove Reservoir's only
about three feet deep round the sides. He took a running dive, and
almost buried himself in the mud. It's about two feet deep. He told me
afterwards he swallowed pounds of it. Rather bad luck. Somebody ought
to have told him. You can't do much diving here."

"Glad you mentioned it," said Kennedy. "I should have dived myself if
you hadn't."

Many other curious and diverting facts did the expert drag from the
bonded warehouse of his knowledge. Nothing changes at camp. Once get
to know the ropes, and you know them for all time.

"The one thing I bar," he said, "is having to get up at half-past
five. And one day in the week, when there's a divisional field-day,
it's half-past four. It's hardly worth while going to sleep at all.
Still, it isn't so bad as it used to be. The first year I came to camp
we used to have to do a three hours' field-day before brekker. We used
to have coffee before it, and nothing else till it was over. By Jove,
you felt you'd had enough of it before you got back. This is Laffan's
Plain. The worst of Laffan's Plain is that you get to know it too
well. You get jolly sick of always starting on field-days from the
same place, and marching across the same bit of ground. Still, I
suppose they can't alter the scenery for our benefit. See that man
there? He won the sabres at Aldershot last year. That chap with him is
in the Clifton footer team."

When a school corps goes to camp, it lives in a number of tents, and,
as a rule, each house collects in a tent of its own. Blackburn's had a
tent, and further down the line Kay's had assembled. The Kay
contingent were under Wayburn, a good sort, as far as he himself was
concerned, but too weak to handle a mob like Kay's. Wayburn was not
coming back after the holidays, a fact which perhaps still further
weakened his hold on the Kayites. They had nothing to fear from him
next term.

Kay's was represented at camp by a dozen or so of its members, of whom
young Billy Silver alone had any pretensions to the esteem of his
fellow man. Kay's was the rowdiest house in the school, and the cream
of its rowdy members had come to camp. There was Walton, for one, a
perfect specimen of the public school man at his worst. There was
Mortimer, another of Kay's gems. Perry, again, and Callingham, and the
rest. A pleasant gang, fit for anything, if it could be done in
safety.

Kennedy observed them, and--the spectacle starting a train of
thought--asked Jimmy Silver, as they went into their tent just before
lights-out, if there was much ragging in camp.

"Not very much," said the expert. "Chaps are generally too done up at
the end of the day to want to do anything except sleep. Still, I've
known cases. You sometimes get one tent mobbing another. They loose
the ropes, you know. Low trick, I think. It isn't often done, and it
gets dropped on like bricks when it's found out. But why? Do you feel
as if you wanted to do it?"

"It only occurred to me that we've got a lively gang from Kay's here.
I was wondering if they'd get any chances of ragging, or if they'd
have to lie low."

"I'd forgotten Kay's for the moment. Now you mention it, they are
rather a crew. But I shouldn't think they'd find it worth while to rot
about here. It isn't as if they were on their native heath. People
have a prejudice against having their tent-ropes loosed, and they'd
get beans if they did anything in that line. I remember once there was
a tent which made itself objectionable, and it got raided in the night
by a sort of vigilance committee from the other schools, and the chaps
in it got the dickens of a time. None of them ever came to camp again.
I hope Kay's'll try and behave decently. It'll be an effort for them;
but I hope they'll make it. It would be an awful nuisance if young
Billy made an ass of himself in any way. He loves making an ass of
himself. It's a sort of hobby of his."

As if to support the statement, a sudden volley of subdued shouts came
from the other end of the Eckleton lines.

"Go it, Wren!"

"Stick to it, Silver!"

"Wren!"

"Silver!"

"S-s-h!"

Silence, followed almost immediately by a gruff voice inquiring with
simple directness what the dickens all this noise was about.

"Hullo!" said Kennedy. "Did you hear that? I wonder what's been up?
Your brother was in it, whatever it was."

"Of course," said Jimmy Silver, "he would be. We can't find out about
it now, though. I'll ask him tomorrow, if I remember. I shan't
remember, of course. Good night."

"Good night."

Half an hour later, Kennedy, who had been ruminating over the incident
in his usual painstaking way, reopened the debate.

"Who's Wren?" he asked.

"Wha'?" murmured Silver, sleepily.

"Who's Wren?" repeated Kennedy.

"I d'know.... Oh.... Li'l' beast.... Kay's.... Red hair.... G'-ni'."

And sleep reigned in Blackburn's tent.

Content of CHAPTER V - CAMP (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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