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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter II - THE GOLD BAT
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The Gold Bat - Chapter II - THE GOLD BAT Post by :markfarrar Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2882

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The Gold Bat - Chapter II - THE GOLD BAT

CHAPTER II - THE GOLD BAT


Trevor did not take long to resume a garb of civilisation. He never
wasted much time over anything. He was gifted with a boundless energy,
which might possibly have made him unpopular had he not justified it by
results. The football of the school had never been in such a
flourishing condition as it had attained to on his succeeding to the
captaincy. It was not only that the first fifteen was good. The
excellence of a first fifteen does not always depend on the captain.
But the games, even down to the very humblest junior game, had woken up
one morning--at the beginning of the previous term--to find themselves,
much to their surprise, organised going concerns. Like the immortal
Captain Pott, Trevor was "a terror to the shirker and the lubber". And
the resemblance was further increased by the fact that he was "a
toughish lot", who was "little, but steel and india-rubber". At first
sight his appearance was not imposing. Paterfamilias, who had heard his
son's eulogies on Trevor's performances during the holidays, and came
down to watch the school play a match, was generally rather
disappointed on seeing five feet six where he had looked for at least
six foot one, and ten stone where he had expected thirteen. But then,
what there was of Trevor was, as previously remarked, steel and
india-rubber, and he certainly played football like a miniature
Stoddart. It was characteristic of him that, though this was the
first match of the term, his condition seemed to be as good as
possible. He had done all his own work on the field and most of
Rand-Brown's, and apparently had not turned a hair. He was one of
those conscientious people who train in the holidays.

When he had changed, he went down the passage to Clowes' study. Clowes was
in the position he frequently took up when the weather was good--wedged
into his window in a sitting position, one leg in the study, the other
hanging outside over space. The indoor leg lacked a boot, so that it was
evident that its owner had at least had the energy to begin to change.
That he had given the thing up after that, exhausted with the effort, was
what one naturally expected from Clowes. He would have made a splendid
actor: he was so good at resting.

"Hurry up and dress," said Trevor; "I want you to come over to the
baths."

"What on earth do you want over at the baths?"

"I want to see O'Hara."

"Oh, yes, I remember. Dexter's are camping out there, aren't they? I
heard they were. Why is it?"

"One of the Dexter kids got measles in the last week of the holidays,
so they shunted all the beds and things across, and the chaps went back
there instead of to the house."

In the winter term the baths were always boarded over and converted
into a sort of extra gymnasium where you could go and box or fence when
there was no room to do it in the real gymnasium. Socker and stump-cricket
were also largely played there, the floor being admirably suited to such
games, though the light was always rather tricky, and prevented heavy
scoring.

"I should think," said Clowes, "from what I've seen of Dexter's
beauties, that Dexter would like them to camp out at the bottom of the
baths all the year round. It would be a happy release for him if they
were all drowned. And I suppose if he had to choose any one of them for
a violent death, he'd pick O'Hara. O'Hara must be a boon to a
house-master. I've known chaps break rules when the spirit moved
them, but he's the only one I've met who breaks them all day long
and well into the night simply for amusement. I've often thought of
writing to the S.P.C.A. about it. I suppose you could call Dexter an
animal all right?"

"O'Hara's right enough, really. A man like Dexter would make any fellow
run amuck. And then O'Hara's an Irishman to start with, which makes a
difference."

There is usually one house in every school of the black sheep sort,
and, if you go to the root of the matter, you will generally find that
the fault is with the master of that house. A house-master who enters
into the life of his house, coaches them in games--if an athlete--or,
if not an athlete, watches the games, umpiring at cricket and
refereeing at football, never finds much difficulty in keeping order.
It may be accepted as fact that the juniors of a house will never be
orderly of their own free will, but disturbances in the junior day-room
do not make the house undisciplined. The prefects are the criterion.
If you find them joining in the general "rags", and even starting
private ones on their own account, then you may safely say that it is
time the master of that house retired from the business, and took to
chicken-farming. And that was the state of things in Dexter's. It was
the most lawless of the houses. Mr Dexter belonged to a type of master
almost unknown at a public school--the usher type. In a private school
he might have passed. At Wrykyn he was out of place. To him the whole
duty of a house-master appeared to be to wage war against his house.

When Dexter's won the final for the cricket cup in the summer term of
two years back, the match lasted four afternoons--four solid afternoons
of glorious, up-and-down cricket. Mr Dexter did not see a single ball of
that match bowled. He was prowling in sequestered lanes and broken-down
barns out of bounds on the off-chance that he might catch some member of
his house smoking there. As if the whole of the house, from the head to
the smallest fag, were not on the field watching Day's best bats collapse
before Henderson's bowling, and Moriarty hit up that marvellous and
unexpected fifty-three at the end of the second innings!

That sort of thing definitely stamps a master.

"What do you want to see O'Hara about?" asked Clowes.

"He's got my little gold bat. I lent it him in the holidays."

A remark which needs a footnote. The bat referred to was made of gold,
and was about an inch long by an eighth broad. It had come into
existence some ten years previously, in the following manner. The
inter-house cricket cup at Wrykyn had originally been a rather
tarnished and unimpressive vessel, whose only merit consisted in the
fact that it was of silver. Ten years ago an Old Wrykinian, suddenly
reflecting that it would not be a bad idea to do something for the
school in a small way, hied him to the nearest jeweller's and purchased
another silver cup, vast withal and cunningly decorated with filigree
work, and standing on a massive ebony plinth, round which were little
silver lozenges just big enough to hold the name of the winning house
and the year of grace. This he presented with his blessing to be
competed for by the dozen houses that made up the school of Wrykyn, and
it was formally established as the house cricket cup. The question now
arose: what was to be done with the other cup? The School House, who
happened to be the holders at the time, suggested disinterestedly that
it should become the property of the house which had won it last. "Not
so," replied the Field Sports Committee, "but far otherwise. We will
have it melted down in a fiery furnace, and thereafter fashioned into
eleven little silver bats. And these little silver bats shall be the
guerdon of the eleven members of the winning team, to have and to hold
for the space of one year, unless, by winning the cup twice in
succession, they gain the right of keeping the bat for yet another
year. How is that, umpire?" And the authorities replied, "O men of
infinite resource and sagacity, verily is it a cold day when _you_
get left behind. Forge ahead." But, when they had forged ahead, behold!
it would not run to eleven little silver bats, but only to ten little
silver bats. Thereupon the headmaster, a man liberal with his cash,
caused an eleventh little bat to be fashioned--for the captain of the
winning team to have and to hold in the manner aforesaid. And, to
single it out from the others, it was wrought, not of silver, but of
gold. And so it came to pass that at the time of our story Trevor was
in possession of the little gold bat, because Donaldson's had won the
cup in the previous summer, and he had captained them--and,
incidentally, had scored seventy-five without a mistake.

"Well, I'm hanged if I would trust O'Hara with my bat," said Clowes,
referring to the silver ornament on his own watch-chain; "he's probably
pawned yours in the holidays. Why did you lend it to him?"

"His people wanted to see it. I know him at home, you know. They asked
me to lunch the last day but one of the holidays, and we got talking
about the bat, because, of course, if we hadn't beaten Dexter's in the
final, O'Hara would have had it himself. So I sent it over next day
with a note asking O'Hara to bring it back with him here."

"Oh, well, there's a chance, then, seeing he's only had it so little
time, that he hasn't pawned it yet. You'd better rush off and get it
back as soon as possible. It's no good waiting for me. I shan't be
ready for weeks."

"Where's Paget?"

"Teaing with Donaldson. At least, he said he was going to."

"Then I suppose I shall have to go alone. I hate walking alone."

"If you hurry," said Clowes, scanning the road from his post of
vantage, "you'll be able to go with your fascinating pal Ruthven. He's
just gone out."

Trevor dashed downstairs in his energetic way, and overtook the youth
referred to.

Clowes brooded over them from above like a sorrowful and rather
disgusted Providence. Trevor's liking for Ruthven, who was a
Donaldsonite like himself, was one of the few points on which the two
had any real disagreement. Clowes could not understand how any person
in his senses could of his own free will make an intimate friend of
Ruthven.

"Hullo, Trevor," said Ruthven.

"Come over to the baths," said Trevor, "I want to see O'Hara about
something. Or were you going somewhere else."

"I wasn't going anywhere in particular. I never know what to do in
term-time. It's deadly dull."

Trevor could never understand how any one could find term-time dull.
For his own part, there always seemed too much to do in the time.

"You aren't allowed to play games?" he said, remembering something
about a doctor's certificate in the past.

"No," said Ruthven. "Thank goodness," he added.

Which remark silenced Trevor. To a person who thanked goodness that he
was not allowed to play games he could find nothing to say. But he
ceased to wonder how it was that Ruthven was dull.

They proceeded to the baths together in silence. O'Hara, they were
informed by a Dexter's fag who met them outside the door, was not
about.

"When he comes back," said Trevor, "tell him I want him to come to tea
tomorrow directly after school, and bring my bat. Don't forget."

The fag promised to make a point of it.

Content of CHAPTER II - THE GOLD BAT (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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