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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter XIX - THE GUILE OF WREN
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XIX - THE GUILE OF WREN Post by :naturecity Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1921

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XIX - THE GUILE OF WREN


Wren did not quite know what to make of this. Why had not Fenn said a
word to him? There were one or two prefects in the school whom he
might have met even at such close quarters and yet have cherished a
hope that they had not seen him. Once he had run right into Drew, of
the School House, and escaped unrecognised. But with Fenn it was
different. Compared to Fenn, lynxes were astigmatic. He must have
spotted him.

There was a vein of philosophy in Wren's composition. He felt that he
might just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. In other words,
having been caught down town without leave, he might as well stay
there and enjoy himself a little while longer before going back to be
executed. So he strolled off down the High Street, bought a few things
at a stationer's, and wound up with an excellent tea at the
confectioner's by the post-office.

It was as he was going to this meal that Kennedy caught sight of him.
Kennedy had come down town to visit the local photographer, to whom he
had entrusted a fortnight before the pleasant task of taking his
photograph. As he had heard nothing from him since, he was now coming
to investigate. He entered the High Street as Wren was turning into
the confectioner's, saw him, and made a note of it for future

When Wren returned to the house just before lock-up, he sought counsel
of Walton.

"I say," he said, as he handed over the honey he had saved so neatly
from destruction, "what would you do? Just as I was coming out of the
shop, I barged into Fenn. He must have twigged me."

"Didn't he say anything?"

"Not a word. I couldn't make it out, because he must have seen me. We
weren't a yard away from one another."

"It's dark in the shop," suggested Walton.

"Not at the door; which is where we met."

Before Walton could find anything to say in reply to this, their
conversation was interrupted by Spencer.

"Kennedy wants you, Wren," said Spencer. "You'd better buck up; he's
in an awful wax."

Next to Walton, the vindictive Spencer objected most to Wren, and he
did not attempt to conceal the pleasure he felt in being the bearer of
this ominous summons.

The group broke up. Wren went disconsolately upstairs to Kennedy's
study; Walton smacked Spencer's head--more as a matter of form than
because he had done anything special to annoy him--and retired to the
senior dayroom; while Spencer, muttering darkly to himself, avoided a
second smack and took cover in the junior room, where he consoled
himself by toasting a piece of india-rubber in the gas till it made
the atmosphere painful to breathe in, and recalling with pleasure the
condition Walton's face had been in for the day or two following his
encounter with Kennedy in the dormitory.

Kennedy was working when Wren knocked at his door.

He had not much time to spare on a bounds-breaking fag; and his manner
was curt.

"I saw you going into Rose's, in the High Street, this afternoon,
Wren," he said, looking up from his Greek prose. "I didn't give you
leave. Come up here after prayers tonight. Shut the door."

Wren went down to consult Walton again. His attitude with regard to a
licking from the head of the house was much like that of the other
fags. Custom had, to a certain extent, inured him to these painful
interviews, but still, if it was possible, he preferred to keep out of
them. Under Fenn's rule he had often found a tolerably thin excuse
serve his need. Fenn had so many other things to do that he was not
unwilling to forego an occasional licking, if the excuse was good
enough. And he never took the trouble to find out whether the
ingenious stories Wren was wont to serve up to him were true or not.
Kennedy, Wren reflected uncomfortably, had given signs that this
easy-going method would not do for him. Still, it might be possible to
hunt up some story that would meet the case. Walton had a gift in that

"He says I'm to go to his study after prayers," reported Wren. "Can't
you think of any excuse that would do?"

"Can't understand Fenn running you in," said Walton. "I thought he
never spoke to Kennedy."

Wren explained.

"It wasn't Fenn who ran me in. Kennedy was down town, too, and twigged
me going into Rose's. I went there and had tea after I got your things
at the grocer's."

"Oh, he spotted you himself, did he?" said Walton. "And he doesn't
know Fenn saw you?"

"I don't think so."

"Then I've got a ripping idea. When he has you up tonight, swear that
you got leave from Fenn to go down town."

"But he'll ask him."

"The odds are that he won't. He and Fenn had a row at the beginning of
term, and never speak to one another if they can help it. It's ten to
one that he will prefer taking your yarn to going and asking Fenn if
it's true or not. Then he's bound to let you off."

Wren admitted that the scheme was sound.

At the conclusion of prayers, therefore, he went up again to Kennedy's
study, with a more hopeful air than he had worn on his previous visit.

"Come in," said Kennedy, reaching for the swagger-stick which he was
accustomed to use at these ceremonies.

"Please, Kennedy," said Wren, glibly. "I did get leave to go down town
this afternoon."


Wren repeated the assertion.

"Who gave you leave?"


The thing did not seem to be working properly. When he said the word
"Fenn", Wren expected to see Kennedy retire baffled, conscious that
there was nothing more to be said or done. Instead of this, the remark
appeared to infuriate him.

"It's just like your beastly cheek," he said, glaring at the
red-headed delinquent, "to ask Fenn for leave instead of me. You know
perfectly well that only the head of the house can give leave to go
down town. I don't know how often you and the rest of the junior
dayroom have played this game, but it's going to stop now. You'd
better remember another time when you want to go to Rose's that I've
got to be consulted first."

With which he proceeded to ensure to the best of his ability that the
memory of Master Wren should not again prove treacherous in this

"How did it work?" asked Walton, when Wren returned.

"It didn't," said Wren, briefly.

Walton expressed an opinion that Kennedy was a cad; which, however
sound in itself, did little to improve the condition of Wren.

Having disposed of Wren, Kennedy sat down seriously to consider this
new development of a difficult situation. Hitherto he had imagined
Fenn to be merely a sort of passive resister who confined himself to
the Achilles-in-his-tent business, and was only a nuisance because he
refused to back him up. To find him actually aiding and abetting the
house in its opposition to its head was something of a shock. And yet,
if he had given Wren leave to go down town, he had probably done the
same kind office by others. It irritated Kennedy more than the most
overt act of enmity would have done. It was not good form. It was
hitting below the belt. There was, of course, the chance that Wren's
story had not been true. But he did not build much on that. He did not
yet know his Wren well, and believed that such an audacious lie would
be beyond the daring of a fag. But it would be worth while to make
inquiries. He went down the passage to Fenn's study. Fenn, however,
had gone to bed, so he resolved to approach him on the subject next
day. There was no hurry.

He went to his dormitory, feeling very bitter towards Fenn, and
rehearsing home truths with which to confound him on the morrow.

Content of CHAPTER XIX - THE GUILE OF WREN (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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