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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter XXIV - THE SPORTS
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XXIV - THE SPORTS Post by :chamoru1 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1405

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XXIV - THE SPORTS

CHAPTER XXIV - THE SPORTS


There were certain houses at Eckleton which had, as it were,
specialised in certain competitions. Thus, Gay's, who never by any
chance survived the first two rounds of the cricket and football
housers, invariably won the shooting shield. All the other houses sent
their brace of men to the range to see what they could do, but every
year it was the same. A pair of weedy obscurities from Gay's would
take the shield by a comfortable margin. In the same way Mulholland's
had only won the cricket cup once since they had become a house, but
they had carried off the swimming cup three years in succession, and
six years in all out of the last eight. The sports had always been
looked on as the perquisite of the School House; and this year, with
Milligan to win the long distances, and Maybury the high jump and the
weight, there did not seem much doubt at their success. These two
alone would pile up fifteen points. Three points were given for a win,
two for second place, and one for third. It was this that encouraged
Kennedy in the hope that Dencroft's might have a chance. Nobody in the
house could beat Milligan or Maybury, but the School House second and
third strings were not so invincible. If Dencroft's, by means of
second and third places in the long races and the other events which
were certainties for their opponents, could hold the School House,
Fenn's sprinting might just give them the cup. In the meantime they
trained hard, but in an unobtrusive fashion which aroused no fear in
School House circles.

The sports were fixed for the last Saturday of term, but not all the
races were run on that day. The half-mile came off on the previous
Thursday, and the long steeplechase on the Monday after.

The School House won the half-mile, as they were expected to do.
Milligan led from the start, increased his lead at the end of the
first lap, doubled it half-way through the second, and finally, with a
dazzling sprint in the last seventy yards, lowered the Eckleton record
by a second and three-fifths, and gave his house three points.
Kennedy, who stuck gamely to his man for half the first lap, was
beaten on the tape by Crake, of Mulholland's. When sports' day came,
therefore, the score was School House three points, Mulholland's two,
Dencroft's one. The success of Mulholland's in the half was to the
advantage of Dencroft's. Mulholland's was not likely to score many
more points, and a place to them meant one or two points less to the
School House.

The sports opened all in favour of Dencroft's, but those who knew drew
no great consolation from this. School sports always begin with the
sprints, and these were Dencroft's certainties. Fenn won the hundred
yards as easily as Milligan had won the half. Peel was second, and a
Beddell's man got third place. So that Dencroft's had now six points
to their rival's three. Ten minutes later they had increased their
lead by winning the first two places at throwing the cricket ball,
Fenn's throw beating Kennedy's by ten yards, and Kennedy's being a few
feet in front of Jimmy Silver's, which, by gaining third place,
represented the only point Blackburn's managed to amass during the
afternoon.

It now began to dawn upon the School House that their supremacy was
seriously threatened. Dencroft's, by its success in the football
competition, had to a great extent lived down the reputation the house
had acquired when it had been Kay's, but even now the notion of its
winning a cup seemed somehow vaguely improper. But the fact had to be
faced that it now led by eleven points to the School House's three.

"It's all right," said the School House, "our spot events haven't come
off yet. Dencroft's can't get much more now."

And, to prove that they were right, the gap between the two scores
began gradually to be filled up. Dencroft's struggled hard, but the
School House total crept up and up. Maybury brought it to six by
winning the high jump. This was only what had been expected of him.
The discomforting part of the business was that the other two places
were filled by Morrell, of Mulholland's, and Smith, of Daly's. And
when, immediately afterwards, Maybury won the weight, with another
School House man second, leaving Dencroft's with third place only,
things began to look black for the latter. They were now only one
point ahead, and there was the mile to come: and Milligan could give
any Dencroftian a hundred yards at that distance.

But to balance the mile there was the quarter, and in the mile Kennedy
contrived to beat Crake by much the same number of feet as Crake had
beaten him by in the half. The scores of the two houses were now
level, and a goodly number of the School House certainties were past.

Dencroft's forged ahead again by virtue of the quarter-mile. Fenn won
it; Peel was second; and a dark horse from Denny's got in third. With
the greater part of the sports over, and a lead of five points to
their name, Dencroft's could feel more comfortable. The hurdle-race
was productive of some discomfort. Fenn should have won it, as being
blessed with twice the pace of any of his opponents. But Maybury, the
jumper, made up for lack of pace by the scientific way in which he
took his hurdles, and won off him by a couple of feet. Smith,
Dencroft's second string, finished third, thus leaving the totals
unaltered by the race.

By this time the public had become alive to the fact that Dencroft's
were making a great fight for the cup. They had noticed that
Dencroft's colours always seemed to be coming in near the head of the
procession, but the School House had made the cup so much their own,
that it took some time for the school to realise that another
house--especially the late Kay's--was running them hard for first
place. Then, just before the hurdle-race, fellows with "correct cards"
hastily totted up the points each house had won up-to-date. To the
general amazement it was found that, while the School House had
fourteen, Dencroft's had reached nineteen, and, barring the long run
to be decided on the Monday, there was nothing now that the School
House must win without dispute.

A house that will persist in winning a cup year after year has to pay
for it when challenged by a rival. Dencroft's instantly became warm
favourites. Whenever Dencroft's brown and gold appeared at the
scratch, the school shouted for it wildly till the event was over. By
the end of the day the totals were more nearly even, but Dencroft's
were still ahead. They had lost on the long jump, but not
unexpectedly. The totals at the finish were, School House
twenty-three, Dencroft's twenty-five. Everything now depended on the
long run.

"We might do it," said Kennedy to Fenn, as they changed. "Milligan's a
cert for three points, of course, but if we can only get two we win
the cup."

"There's one thing about the long run," said Fenn; "you never quite
know what's going to happen. Milligan might break down over one of the
hedges or the brook. There's no telling."

Kennedy felt that such a remote possibility was something of a broken
reed to lean on. He had no expectation of beating the School House
long distance runner, but he hoped for second place; and second place
would mean the cup, for there was nobody to beat either himself or
Crake.

The distance of the long run was as nearly as possible five miles. The
course was across country to the village of Ledby in a sort of
semicircle of three and a half miles, and then back to the school
gates by road. Every Eckletonian who ran at all knew the route by
heart. It was the recognised training run if you wanted to train
particularly hard. If you did not, you took a shorter spin. At the
milestone nearest the school--it was about half a mile from the
gates--a good number of fellows used to wait to see the first of the
runners and pace their men home. But, as a rule, there were few really
hot finishes in the long run. The man who got to Ledby first generally
kept the advantage, and came in a long way ahead of the field.

On this occasion the close fight Kennedy and Crake had had in the mile
and the half, added to the fact that Kennedy had only to get second
place to give Dencroft's the cup, lent a greater interest to the race
than usual. The crowd at the milestone was double the size of the one
in the previous year, when Milligan had won for the first time. And
when, amidst howls of delight from the School House, the same runner
ran past the stone with his long, effortless stride, before any of the
others were in sight, the crowd settled down breathlessly to watch for
the second man.

Then a yell, to which the other had been nothing, burst from the
School House as a white figure turned the corner. It was Crake.
Waddling rather than running, and breathing in gasps; but still Crake.
He toiled past the crowd at the milestone.

"By Jove, he looks bad," said someone.

And, indeed, he looked very bad. But he was ahead of Kennedy. That was
the great thing.

He had passed the stone by thirty yards, when the cheering broke out
again. Kennedy this time, in great straits, but in better shape than
Crake. Dencroft's in a body trotted along at the side of the road,
shouting as they went. Crake, hearing the shouts, looked round, almost
fell, and then pulled himself together and staggered on again. There
were only a hundred yards to go now, and the school gates were in
sight at the end of a long lane of spectators. They looked to Kennedy
like two thick, black hedges. He could not sprint, though a hundred
voices were shouting to him to do so. It was as much as he could do to
keep moving. Only his will enabled him to run now. He meant to get to
the gates, if he had to crawl.

The hundred yards dwindled to fifty, and he had diminished Crake's
lead by a third. Twenty yards from the gates, and he was only
half-a-dozen yards behind.

Crake looked round again, and this time did what he had nearly done
before. His legs gave way; he rolled over; and there he remained, with
the School House watching him in silent dismay, while Kennedy went on
and pitched in a heap on the other side of the gates.

* * * * *

"Feeling bad?" said Jimmy Silver, looking in that evening to make
inquiries.

"I'm feeling good," said Kennedy.

"That the cup?" asked Jimmy.

Kennedy took the huge cup from the table.

"That's it. Milligan has just brought it round. Well, they can't say
they haven't had their fair share of it. Look here. School House.
School House. School House. School House. Daly's. School House.
Denny's. School House. School House. _Ad infinitum_."

They regarded the trophy in silence.

"First pot the house has won," said Kennedy at length. "The very
first."

"It won't be the last," returned Jimmy Silver, with decision.

Content of CHAPTER XXIV - THE SPORTS
The End
P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's

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