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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter VI - THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter VI - THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT Post by :Mustafa_Ungur Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1771

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter VI - THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT

CHAPTER VI - THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT


Wren and Billy Silver had fallen out over a question of space. It was
Silver's opinion that Wren's nest ought to have been built a foot or
two further to the left. He stated baldly that he had not room to
breathe, and requested the red-headed one to ease off a point or so in
the direction of his next-door neighbour. Wren had refused, and, after
a few moments' chatty conversation, smote William earnestly in the
wind. Trouble had begun upon the instant. It had ceased almost as
rapidly owing to interruptions from without, but the truce had been
merely temporary. They continued the argument outside the tent at
five-thirty the next morning, after the _reveille had sounded,
amidst shouts of approval from various shivering mortals who were
tubbing preparatory to embarking on the labours of the day.

A brisk first round had just come to a conclusion when Walton lounged
out of the tent, yawning.

Walton proceeded to separate the combatants. After which he rebuked
Billy Silver with a swagger-stick. Wren's share in the business he
overlooked. He was by way of being a patron of Wren's, and he disliked
Billy Silver, partly for his own sake and partly because he hated his
brother, with whom he had come into contact once or twice during his
career at Eckleton, always with unsatisfactory results.

So Walton dropped on to Billy Silver, and Wren continued his toilet
rejoicing.

Camp was beginning the strenuous life now. Tent after tent emptied
itself of its occupants, who stretched themselves vigorously, and
proceeded towards the tubbing-ground, where there were tin baths for
those who cared to wait until the same were vacant, and a good, honest
pump for those who did not. Then there was that unpopular job, the
piling of one's bedding outside the tent, and the rolling up of the
tent curtains. But these unpleasant duties came to an end at last, and
signs of breakfast began to appear.

Breakfast gave Kennedy his first insight into life in camp. He
happened to be tent-orderly that day, and it therefore fell to his lot
to join the orderlies from the other tents in their search for the
Eckleton rations. He returned with a cargo of bread (obtained from the
quartermaster), and, later, with a great tin of meat, which the
cook-house had supplied, and felt that this was life. Hitherto
breakfast had been to him a thing of white cloths, tables, and food
that appeared from nowhere. This was the first time he had ever
tracked his food to its source, so to speak, and brought it back with
him. After breakfast, when he was informed that, as tent-orderly for
the day, it was his business to wash up, he began to feel as if he
were on a desert island. He had never quite realised before what
washing-up implied, and he was conscious of a feeling of respect for
the servants at Blackburn's, who did it every day as a matter of
course, without complaint. He had had no idea before this of the
intense stickiness of a jammy plate.

One day at camp is much like another. The schools opened the day with
parade drill at about eight o'clock, and, after an instruction series
of "changing direction half-left in column of double companies", and
other pleasant movements of a similar nature, adjourned for lunch.
Lunch was much like breakfast, except that the supply of jam was cut
off. The people who arrange these things--probably the War Office, or
Mr Brodrick, or someone--have come to the conclusion that two pots of
jam per tent are sufficient for breakfast and lunch. The unwary devour
theirs recklessly at the earlier meal, and have to go jamless until
tea at six o'clock, when another pot is served out.

The afternoon at camp is perfect or otherwise, according to whether
there is a four o'clock field-day or not. If there is, there are more
manoeuvrings until tea-time, and the time is spent profitably, but not
so pleasantly as it might be. If there is no field-day, you can take
your time about your bathe in Cove Reservoir. And a really
satisfactory bathe on a hot day should last at least three hours.
Kennedy and Jimmy Silver strolled off in the direction of the
Reservoir as soon as they felt that they had got over the effects of
the beef, potatoes, and ginger-beer which a generous commissariat had
doled out to them for lunch. It was a glorious day, and bathing was
the only thing to do for the next hour or so. Stump-cricket, that
fascinating sport much indulged in in camp, would not be at its best
until the sun had cooled off a little.

After a pleasant half hour in the mud and water of the Reservoir, they
lay on the bank and watched the rest of the schools take their
afternoon dip. Kennedy had laid in a supply of provisions from the
stall which stood at the camp end of the water. Neither of them felt
inclined to move.

"This _is decent," said Kennedy, wriggling into a more
comfortable position in the long grass. "Hullo!"

"What's up?" inquired Jimmy Silver, lazily.

He was almost asleep.

"Look at those idiots. They're certain to get spotted."

Jimmy Silver tilted his hat off his face, and sat up.

"What's the matter? Which idiot?"

Kennedy pointed to a bush on their right. Walton and Perry were seated
beside it. Both were smoking.

"Oh, that's all right," said Silver. "Masters never come to Cove
Reservoir. It's a sort of unwritten law. They're rotters to smoke, all
the same. Certain to get spotted some day.... Not worth it.... Spoils
lungs.... Beastly bad ... training."

He dozed off. The sun was warm, and the grass very soft and
comfortable. Kennedy turned his gaze to the Reservoir again. It was no
business of his what Walton and Perry did.

Walton and Perry were discussing ways and means. The conversation
changed as they saw Kennedy glance at them. They were the sort of
persons who feel a vague sense of injury when anybody looks at them,
perhaps because they feel that those whose attention is attracted to
them must say something to their discredit when they begin to talk
about them.

"There's that beast Kennedy," said Walton. "I can't stick that man.
He's always hanging round the house. What he comes for, I can't make
out."

"Pal of Fenn's," suggested Perry.

"He hangs on to Fenn. I bet Fenn bars him really."

Perry doubted this in his innermost thoughts, but it was not worth
while to say so.

"Those Blackburn chaps," continued Walton, reverting to another
grievance, "will stick on no end of side next term about that cup.
They wouldn't have had a look in if Kay hadn't given Fenn that extra.
Kay ought to be kicked. I'm hanged if I'm going to care what I do next
term. Somebody ought to do something to take it out of Kay for getting
his own house licked like that."

Walton spoke as if the line of conduct he had mapped out for himself
would be a complete reversal of his customary mode of life. As a
matter of fact, he had never been in the habit of caring very much
what he did.

Walton's last remarks brought the conversation back to where it had
been before the mention of Kennedy switched it off on to new lines.
Perry had been complaining that he thought camp a fraud, that it was
all drilling and getting up at unearthly hours. He reminded Walton
that he had only come on the strength of the latter's statement that
it would be a rag. Where did the rag come in? That was what Perry
wanted to know.

"When it's not a ghastly sweat," he concluded, "it's slow. Like it is
now. Can't we do something for a change?"

"As a matter of fact," said Walton, "nearly all the best rags are
played out. A chap at a crammer's told me last holidays that when he
was at camp he and some other fellows loosed the ropes of the
guard-tent. He said it was grand sport."

Perry sat up.

"That's the thing," he said, excitedly. "Let's do that. Why not?"

"It's beastly risky," objected Walton.

"What's that matter? They can't do anything, even if they spot us."

"That's all you know. We should get beans."

"Still, it's worth risking. It would be the biggest rag going. Did the
chap tell you how they did it?"

"Yes," said Walton, becoming animated as he recalled the stirring
tale, "they bagged the sentry. Chucked a cloth or something over his
head, you know. Then they shoved him into the ditch, and one of them
sat on him while the others loosed the ropes. It took the chaps inside
no end of a time getting out."

"That's the thing. We'll do it. We only need one other chap. Leveson
would come if we asked him. Let's get back to the lines. It's almost
tea-time. Tell him after tea."

Leveson proved agreeable. Indeed, he jumped at it. His life, his
attitude suggested, had been a hollow mockery until he heard the plan,
but now he could begin to enjoy himself once more.

The lights-out bugle sounded at ten o'clock; the last post at
ten-thirty. At a quarter to twelve the three adventurers, who had been
keeping themselves awake by the exercise of great pains, satisfied
themselves that the other occupants of the tent were asleep, and stole
out.

It was an excellent night for their purpose. There was no moon, and
the stars were hidden by clouds.

They crept silently towards the guard-tent. A dim figure loomed out of
the blackness. They noted with satisfaction, as it approached, that it
was small. Sentries at the public-school camp vary in physique. They
felt that it was lucky that the task of sentry-go had not fallen that
night to some muscular forward from one of the school fifteens, or
worse still, to a boxing expert who had figured in the Aldershot
competition at Easter. The present sentry would be an easy victim.

They waited for him to arrive.

A moment later Private Jones, of St Asterisk's--for it was he--turning
to resume his beat, found himself tackled from behind. Two moments
later he was reclining in the ditch. He would have challenged his
adversary, but, unfortunately, that individual happened to be seated
on his face.

He struggled, but to no purpose.

He was still struggling when a muffled roar of indignation from the
direction of the guard-tent broke the stillness of the summer night.
The roar swelled into a crescendo. What seemed like echoes came from
other quarters out of the darkness. The camp was waking.

The noise from the guard-tent waxed louder.

The unknown marauder rose from his seat on Private Jones, and
vanished.

Private Jones also rose. He climbed out of the ditch, shook himself,
looked round for his assailant, and, not finding him, hurried to the
guard-tent to see what was happening.

Content of CHAPTER VI - THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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