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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter X - FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter X - FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE Post by :Deirdre Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2323

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter X - FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE

CHAPTER X - FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE


Breakfast on the following morning was a repetition of the dormitory
ordeal. Kennedy walked to his place on Mr Kay's right, feeling that
everyone was looking at him, as indeed they were. He understood for
the first time the meaning of the expression, "the cynosure of all
eyes". He was modest by nature, and felt his position a distinct
trial.

He did not quite know what to say or do with regard to his new
house-master at this their first meeting in the latter's territory.
"Come aboard, sir," occurred to him for a moment as a happy phrase,
but he discarded it. To make the situation more awkward, Mr Kay did
not observe him at first, being occupied in assailing a riotous fag at
the other end of the table, that youth having succeeded, by a
dexterous drive in the ribs, in making a friend of his spill half a
cup of coffee. Kennedy did not know whether to sit down without a word
or to remain standing until Mr Kay had time to attend to him. He would
have done better to have sat down; Mr Kay's greeting, when it came,
was not worth waiting for.

"Sit down, Kennedy," he said, irritably--rebuking people on an empty
stomach always ruffled him. "Sit down, sit down."

Kennedy sat down, and began to toy diffidently with a sausage,
remembering, as he did so, certain diatribes of Fenn's against the
food at Kay's. As he became more intimate with the sausage, he
admitted to himself that Fenn had had reason. Mr Kay meanwhile pounded
away in moody silence at a plate of kidneys and bacon. It was one of
the many grievances which gave the Kayite material for conversation
that Mr Kay had not the courage of his opinions in the matter of food.
He insisted that he fed his house luxuriously, but he refused to brave
the mysteries of its bill of fare himself.

Fenn had not come down when Kennedy went in to breakfast. He arrived
some ten minutes later, when Kennedy had vanquished the sausage, and
was keeping body and soul together with bread and marmalade.

"I cannot have this, Fenn," snapped Mr Kay; "you must come down in
time."

Fenn took the rebuke in silence, cast one glance at the sausage which
confronted him, and then pushed it away with such unhesitating
rapidity that Mr Kay glared at him as if about to take up the cudgels
for the rejected viand. Perhaps he remembered that it scarcely
befitted the dignity of a house-master to enter upon a wrangle with a
member of his house on the subject of the merits and demerits of
sausages, for he refrained, and Fenn was allowed to go on with his
meal in peace.

Kennedy's chief anxiety had been with regard to Fenn. True, the latter
could hardly blame him for being made head of Kay's, since he had not
been consulted in the matter, and, if he had been, would have refused
the post with horror; but nevertheless the situation might cause a
coolness between them. And if Fenn, the only person in the house with
whom he was at all intimate, refused to be on friendly terms, his stay
in Kay's would be rendered worse than even he had looked for.

Fenn had not spoken to him at breakfast, but then there was little
table talk at Kay's. Perhaps the quality of the food suggested such
gloomy reflections that nobody liked to put them into words.

After the meal Fenn ran upstairs to his study. Kennedy followed him,
and opened conversation in his direct way with the subject which he
had come to discuss.

"I say," he said, "I hope you aren't sick about this. You know I
didn't want to bag your place as head of the house."

"My dear chap," said Fenn, "don't apologise. You're welcome to it.
Being head of Kay's isn't such a soft job that one is keen on sticking
to it."

"All the same--" began Kennedy.

"I knew Kay would get at me somehow, of course. I've been wondering
how all the holidays. I didn't think of this. Still, I'm jolly glad
it's happened. I now retire into private life, and look on. I've taken
years off my life sweating to make this house decent, and now I'm
going to take a rest and watch you tearing your hair out over the job.
I'm awfully sorry for you. I wish they'd roped in some other victim."

"But you're still a house prefect, I suppose?"

"I believe so, Kay couldn't very well make me a fag again."

"Then you'll help manage things?"

Fenn laughed.

"Will I, by Jove! I'd like to see myself! I don't want to do the heavy
martyr business and that sort of thing, but I'm hanged if I'm going to
take any more trouble over the house. Haven't you any respect for Mr
Kay's feelings? He thinks I can't keep order. Surely you don't want me
to go and shatter his pet beliefs? Anyhow, I'm not going to do it. I'm
going to play 'villagers and retainers' to your 'hero'. If you do
anything wonderful with the house, I shall be standing by ready to
cheer. But you don't catch me shoving myself forward. 'Thank Heaven I
knows me place,' as the butler in the play says."

Kennedy kicked moodily at the leg of the chair which he was holding.
The feeling that his whole world had fallen about his ears was
increasing with every hour he spent in Kay's. Last term he and Fenn
had been as close friends as you could wish to see. If he had asked
Fenn to help him in a tight place then, he knew he could have relied
on him. Now his chief desire seemed to be to score off the human race
in general, his best friend included. It was a depressing beginning.

"Do you know what the sherry said to the man when he was just going to
drink it?" inquired Fenn. "It said, '_Nemo me impune lacessit_'.
That's how I feel. Kay went out of his way to give me a bad time when
I was doing my best to run his house properly, so I don't see that I'm
called upon to go out of my way to work for him."

"It's rather rough on me--" Kennedy began. Then a sudden indignation
rushed through him. Why should he grovel to Fenn? If Fenn chose to
stand out, let him. He was capable of running the house by himself.

"I don't care," he said, savagely. "If you can't see what a cad you're
making of yourself, I'm not going to try to show you. You can do what
you jolly well please. I'm not dependent on you. I'll make this a
decent house off my own bat without your help. If you like looking on,
you'd better look on. I'll give you something to look at soon."

He went out, leaving Fenn with mixed feelings. He would have liked to
have followed him, taken back what he had said, and formed an
offensive alliance against the black sheep of the house--and also,
which was just as important, against the slack sheep, who were good
for nothing, either at work or play. But his bitterness against the
house-master prevented him. He was not going to take his removal from
the leadership of Kay's as if nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, in the dayrooms and studies, the house had been holding
indignation meetings, and at each it had been unanimously resolved
that Kay's had been abominably treated, and that the deposition of
Fenn must not be tolerated. Unfortunately, a house cannot do very much
when it revolts. It can only show its displeasure in little things,
and by an increase of rowdiness. This was the line that Kay's took.
Fenn became a popular hero. Fags, until he kicked them for it, showed
a tendency to cheer him whenever they saw him. Nothing could paint Mr
Kay blacker in the eyes of his house, so that Kennedy came in for all
the odium. The same fags who had cheered Fenn hooted him on one
occasion as he passed the junior dayroom. Kennedy stopped short, went
in, and presented each inmate of the room with six cuts with a
swagger-stick. This summary and Captain Kettle-like move had its
effect. There was no more hooting. The fags bethought themselves of
other ways of showing their disapproval of their new head.

One genius suggested that they might kill two birds with one
stone--snub Kennedy and pay a stately compliment to Fenn by applying
to the latter for leave to go out of bounds instead of to the former.
As the giving of leave "down town" was the prerogative of the head of
the house, and of no other, there was a suggestiveness about this mode
of procedure which appealed to the junior dayroom.

But the star of the junior dayroom was not in the ascendant. Fenn
might have quarrelled with Kennedy, and be extremely indignant at his
removal from the headship of the house, but he was not the man to
forget to play the game. His policy of non-interference did not
include underhand attempts to sap Kennedy's authority. When Gorrick,
of the Lower Fourth, the first of the fags to put the ingenious scheme
into practice, came to him, still smarting from Kennedy's castigation,
Fenn promptly gave him six more cuts, worse than the first, and kicked
him out into the passage. Gorrick naturally did not want to spoil a
good thing by giving Fenn's game away, so he lay low and said nothing,
with the result that Wren and three others met with the same fate,
only more so, because Fenn's wrath increased with each visit.

Kennedy, of course, heard nothing of this, or he might perhaps have
thought better of Fenn. As for the junior dayroom, it was obliged to
work off its emotion by jeering Jimmy Silver from the safety of the
touchline when the head of Blackburn's was refereeing in a match
between the juniors of his house and those of Kay's. Blackburn's
happened to win by four goals and eight tries, a result which the
patriotic Kay fag attributed solely to favouritism on the part of the
referee.

"I like the kids in your house," said Jimmy to Kennedy, after the
match, when telling the latter of the incident; "there's no false idea
of politeness about them. If they don't like your decisions, they say
so in a shrill treble."

"Little beasts," said Kennedy. "I wish I knew who they were. It's
hopeless to try and spot them, of course."

Content of CHAPTER X - FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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