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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF Post by :Robert_Sanders Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :978

Click below to download : Head Of Kay's - Chapter XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF (Format : PDF)

Head Of Kay's - Chapter XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF

CHAPTER XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF


Nobody knows for certain the feelings of the camel when his proprietor
placed that last straw on his back. The incident happened so long ago.
If it had occurred in modern times, he would probably have contributed
a first-hand report to the _Daily Mail. But it is very likely
that he felt on that occasion exactly as Fenn felt when, after a night
of unparalleled misadventure, he found that somebody had cut off his
retreat by latching the window. After a gruelling race Fate had just
beaten him on the tape.

There was no doubt about its being latched. The sash had not merely
stuck. He put all he knew into the effort to raise it, but without a
hint of success. After three attempts he climbed down again and,
sitting on the garden-seat, began to review his position.

If one has an active mind and a fair degree of optimism, the effect of
the "staggerers" administered by Fate passes off after a while. Fenn
had both. The consequence was that, after ten minutes of grey despair,
he was relieved by a faint hope that there might be some other way
into the house than through his study. Anyhow, it would be worth while
to investigate.

His study was at the side of the house. At the back were the kitchen,
the scullery, and the dining-room, and above these more studies and a
couple of dormitories. As a last resort he might fling rocks and other
solids at the windows until he woke somebody up. But he did not feel
like trying this plan until every other had failed. He had no desire
to let a garrulous dormitory into the secret of his wanderings. What
he hoped was that he might find one of the lower windows open.

And so he did.

As he turned the corner of the house he saw what he had been looking
for. The very first window was wide open. His spirits shot up, and for
the first time since he had left the theatre he was conscious of
taking a pleasure in his adventurous career. Fate was with him after
all. He could not help smiling as he remembered how he had felt during
that ten minutes on the garden-seat, when the future seemed blank and
devoid of any comfort whatsoever. And all the time he could have got
in without an effort, if he had only thought of walking half a dozen
yards.

Now that the way was open to him, he wasted no time. He climbed
through into the dark room. He was not certain which room it was, in
spite of his lengthy residence at Kay's.

He let himself down softly till his foot touched the floor. After a
moment's pause he moved forward a step. Then another. At the third
step his knee struck the leg of a table. He must be in the
dining-room. If so, he was all right. He could find his way up to his
room with his eyes shut. It was easy to find out for certain. The
walls of the dining-room at Kay's, as in the other houses, were
covered with photographs. He walked gingerly in the direction in which
he imagined the nearest wall to be, reached it, and passed his hand
along it. Yes, there were photographs. Then all he had to do was to
find the table again, make his way along it, and when he got to the
end the door would be a yard or so to his left. The programme seemed
simple and attractive. But it was added to in a manner which he had
not foreseen. Feeling his way back to the table, he upset a chair. If
he had upset a cart-load of coal on to a sheet of tin it could not, so
it seemed to him in the disordered state of his nerves, have made more
noise. It went down with an appalling crash, striking the table on its
way. "This," thought Fenn, savagely, as he waited, listening, "is
where I get collared. What a fool I am to barge about like this."

He felt that the echoes of that crash must have penetrated to every
corner of the house. But no one came. Perhaps, after all, the noise
had not been so great. He proceeded on his journey down the table,
feeling every inch of the way. The place seemed one bristling mass of
chairs. But, by the exercise of consummate caution, he upset no more
and won through at last in safety to the door.

It was at this point that the really lively and exciting part of his
adventure began. Compared with what was to follow, his evening had
been up to the present dull and monotonous.

As he opened the door there was a sudden stir and crash at the other
end of the room. Fenn had upset one chair and the noise had nearly
deafened him. Now chairs seemed to be falling in dozens. Bang! Bang!
Crash!! (two that time). And then somebody shot through the window
like a harlequin and dashed away across the lawn. Fenn could hear his
footsteps thudding on the soft turf. And at the same moment other
footsteps made themselves heard.

Somebody was coming downstairs.

"Who is that? Is anybody there?"

It was Mr Kay's voice, unmistakably nervous. Fenn darted from the door
and across the passage. At the other side was a boot-cupboard. It was
his only refuge in that direction. What he ought to have done was to
leave the dining-room by the opposite door, which led _via a
corridor to the junior dayroom. But he lost his head, and instead of
bolting away from the enemy, went towards him.

The stairs down which Mr Kay was approaching were at the end of the
passage. To reach the dining-room one turned to the right. Beyond the
stairs on the left the passage ended in a wall, so that Mr Kay was
bound to take the right direction in the search. Fenn wondered if he
had a pistol. Not that he cared very much. If the house-master was
going to find him, it would be very little extra discomfort to be shot
at. And Mr Kay's talents as a marksman were in all probability limited
to picking off sitting haystacks. The important point was that he had
a candle. A faint yellow glow preceded him down the stairs. Playing
hide-and-seek with him in the dark, Fenn might have slipped past in
safety; but the candle made that impossible.

He found the boot-room door and slipped through just as Mr Kay turned
the corner. With a thrill of pleasure he found that there was a key
inside. He turned it as quietly as he could, but nevertheless it
grated. Having done this, and seeing nothing else that he could do
except await developments, he sat down on the floor among the boots.
It was not a dignified position for a man who had played for his
county while still at school, but just then he would not have
exchanged it for a throne--if the throne had been placed in the
passage or the dining-room.

The only question was--had he been seen or heard? He thought not; but
his heart began to beat furiously as the footsteps stopped outside the
cupboard door and unseen fingers rattled the handle.

Twice Mr Kay tried the handle, but, finding the cupboard locked,
passed on into the dining-room. The light of the candle ceased to
shine under the door, and Fenn was once more in inky darkness.

He listened intently. A minute later he had made his second mistake.
Instead of waiting, as he should have done, until Mr Kay had retired
for good, he unlocked the door directly he had passed, and when a
muffled crash told him that the house-master was in the dining-room
among the chairs, out he came and fled softly upstairs towards his
bedroom. He thought that Mr Kay might possibly take it into his head
to go round the dormitories to make certain that all the members of
his house were in. In which case all would be discovered.

When he reached his room he began to fling off his clothes with
feverish haste. Once in bed all would be well.

He had got out of his boots, his coat, and his waistcoat, and was
beginning to feel that electric sensation of triumph which only conies
to the man who _just pulls through, when he heard Mr Kay coming
down the corridor towards his room. The burglar-hunter, returning from
the dining-room in the full belief that the miscreant had escaped
through the open window, had had all his ardour for the chase
redoubled by the sight of the cupboard door, which Fenn in his hurry
had not remembered to close. Mr Kay had made certain by two separate
trials that that door had been locked. And now it was wide open. Ergo,
the apostle of the jemmy and the skeleton key must still be in the
house. Mr Kay, secure in the recollection that burglars never show
fight if they can possibly help it, determined to search the house.

Fenn made up his mind swiftly. There was no time to finish dressing.
Mr Kay, peering round, might note the absence of the rest of his
clothes from their accustomed pegs if he got into bed as he was. There
was only one thing to be done. He threw back the bed-clothes, ruffled
the sheets till the bed looked as if it had been slept in, and opened
the door just as Mr Kay reached the threshold.

"Anything the matter, sir?" asked Fenn, promptly. "I heard a noise
downstairs. Can I help you?"

Mr Kay looked carefully at the ex-head of his house. Fenn was a
finely-developed youth. He stood six feet, and all of him that was not
bone was muscle. A useful colleague to have by one in a hunt for a
possibly ferocious burglar.

So thought Mr Kay.

"So _you heard the noise?" he said. "Well, perhaps you had
better come with me. There is no doubt that a burglar has entered the
house tonight, in spite of the fact that I locked all the windows
myself. Your study window was unlocked, Fenn. It was extremely
careless of you to leave it in such a condition, and I hope you will
be more careful in future. Why, somebody might have got in through
it."

Fenn thought it was not at all unlikely.

"Come along, then. I am sure the man is still in the house. He was
hiding in the cupboard by the dining-room. I know it. I am sure he is
still in the house."

But, in spite of the fact that Fenn was equally sure, half an hour's
search failed to discover any lurking evil-doer.

"You had better go to bed, Fenn," said Mr Kay, disgustedly, at the end
of that period. "He must have got back in some extraordinary manner."

"Yes, sir," agreed Fenn.

He himself had certainly got back in a very extraordinary manner.

However, he _had got back, which was the main point.

Content of CHAPTER XVII - FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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