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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter IX - MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS
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The Gold Bat - Chapter IX - MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS Post by :ebookguy Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2600

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The Gold Bat - Chapter IX - MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS

CHAPTER IX - MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS


"Ow!" exclaimed the captive, with no uncertain voice. "Let go, you ass,
you're hurting."

The voice was a treble voice. This surprised O'Hara. It looked very
much as if he had put up the wrong bird. From the dimensions of the arm
which he was holding, his prisoner seemed to be of tender years.

"Let go, Harvey, you idiot. I shall kick."

Before the threat could be put into execution, O'Hara, who had been
fumbling all this while in his pocket for a match, found one loose, and
struck a light. The features of the owner of the arm--he was still
holding it--were lit up for a moment.

"Why, it's young Renford!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing down
here?"

Renford, however, continued to pursue the topic of his arm, and the
effect that the vice-like grip of the Irishman had had upon it.

"You've nearly broken it," he said, complainingly.

"I'm sorry. I mistook you for somebody else. Who's that with you?"

"It's me," said an ungrammatical voice.

"Who's me?"

"Harvey."

At this point a soft yellow light lit up the more immediate
neighbourhood. Harvey had brought a bicycle lamp into action.

"That's more like it," said Renford. "Look here, O'Hara, you won't
split, will you?"

"I'm not an informer by profession, thanks," said O'Hara.

"Oh, I know it's all right, really, but you can't be too careful,
because one isn't allowed down here, and there'd be a beastly row if it
got out about our being down here."

"And _they would be cobbed," put in Harvey.

"Who are they?" asked O'Hara.

"Ferrets. Like to have a look at them?"

"_Ferrets!_"

"Yes. Harvey brought back a couple at the beginning of term. Ripping
little beasts. We couldn't keep them in the house, as they'd have got
dropped on in a second, so we had to think of somewhere else, and
thought why not keep them down here?"

"Why, indeed?" said O'Hara. "Do ye find they like it?"

"Oh, _they don't mind," said Harvey. "We feed 'em twice a day.
Once before breakfast--we take it in turns to get up early--and once
directly after school. And on half-holidays and Sundays we take them
out on to the downs."

"What for?"

"Why, rabbits, of course. Renford brought back a saloon-pistol with
him. We keep it locked up in a box--don't tell any one."

"And what do ye do with the rabbits?"

"We pot at them as they come out of the holes."

"Yes, but when ye hit 'em?"

"Oh," said Renford, with some reluctance, "we haven't exactly hit any
yet."

"We've got jolly near, though, lots of times," said Harvey. "Last
Saturday I swear I wasn't more than a quarter of an inch off one of
them. If it had been a decent-sized rabbit, I should have plugged it
middle stump; only it was a small one, so I missed. But come and see
them. We keep 'em right at the other end of the place, in case anybody
comes in."

"Have you ever seen anybody down here?" asked O'Hara.

"Once," said Renford. "Half-a-dozen chaps came down here once while we
were feeding the ferrets. We waited till they'd got well in, then we
nipped out quietly. They didn't see us."

"Did you see who they were?"

"No. It was too dark. Here they are. Rummy old crib this, isn't it?
Look out for your shins on the chairs. Switch on the light, Harvey.
There, aren't they rippers? Quite tame, too. They know us quite well.
They know they're going to be fed, too. Hullo, Sir Nigel! This is Sir
Nigel. Out of the 'White Company', you know. Don't let him nip your
fingers. This other one's Sherlock Holmes."

"Cats-s-s--s!!" said O'Hara. He had a sort of idea that that was the
right thing to say to any animal that could chase and bite.

Renford was delighted to be able to show his ferrets off to so
distinguished a visitor.

"What were you down here about?" inquired Harvey, when the little
animals had had their meal, and had retired once more into private
life.

O'Hara had expected this question, but he did not quite know what
answer to give. Perhaps, on the whole, he thought, it would be best to
tell them the real reason. If he refused to explain, their curiosity
would be roused, which would be fatal. And to give any reason except
the true one called for a display of impromptu invention of which he
was not capable. Besides, they would not be likely to give away his
secret while he held this one of theirs connected with the ferrets. He
explained the situation briefly, and swore them to silence on the
subject.

Renford's comment was brief.

"By Jove!" he observed.

Harvey went more deeply into the question.

"What makes you think they meet down here?" he asked.

"I saw some fellows cutting out of here last night. And you say ye've
seen them here, too. I don't see what object they could have down here
if they weren't the League holding a meeting. I don't see what else a
chap would be after."

"He might be keeping ferrets," hazarded Renford.

"The whole school doesn't keep ferrets," said O'Hara. "You're unique in
that way. No, it must be the League, an' I mean to wait here till they
come."

"Not all night?" asked Harvey. He had a great respect for O'Hara, whose
reputation in the school for out-of-the-way doings was considerable. In
the bright lexicon of O'Hara he believed there to be no such word as
"impossible."

"No," said O'Hara, "but till lock-up. You two had better cut now."

"Yes, I think we'd better," said Harvey.

"And don't ye breathe a word about this to a soul"--a warning which
extracted fervent promises of silence from both youths.

"This," said Harvey, as they emerged on to the gravel, "is something
like. I'm jolly glad we're in it."

 

"Rather. Do you think O'Hara will catch them?"

"He must if he waits down there long enough. They're certain to come
again. Don't you wish you'd been here when the League was on before?"

"I should think I did. Race you over to the shop. I want to get
something before it shuts."

"Right ho!" And they disappeared.

O'Hara waited where he was till six struck from the clock-tower,
followed by the sound of the bell as it rang for lock-up. Then he
picked his way carefully through the groves of chairs, barking his
shins now and then on their out-turned legs, and, pushing open the
door, went out into the open air. It felt very fresh and pleasant after
the brand of atmosphere supplied in the vault. He then ran over to the
gymnasium to meet Moriarty, feeling a little disgusted at the lack of
success that had attended his detective efforts up to the present. So
far he had nothing to show for his trouble except a good deal of dust
on his clothes, and a dirty collar, but he was full of determination.
He could play a waiting game.

It was a pity, as it happened, that O'Hara left the vault when he did.
Five minutes after he had gone, six shadowy forms made their way
silently and in single file through the doorway of the vault, which
they closed carefully behind them. The fact that it was after lock-up
was of small consequence. A good deal of latitude in that way was
allowed at Wrykyn. It was the custom to go out, after the bell had
sounded, to visit the gymnasium. In the winter and Easter terms, the
gymnasium became a sort of social club. People went there with a very
small intention of doing gymnastics. They went to lounge about, talking
to cronies, in front of the two huge stoves which warmed the place.
Occasionally, as a concession to the look of the thing, they would do
an easy exercise or two on the horse or parallels, but, for the most
part, they preferred the _role of spectator. There was plenty to
see. In one corner O'Hara and Moriarty would be sparring their nightly
six rounds (in two batches of three rounds each). In another, Drummond,
who was going up to Aldershot as a feather-weight, would be putting in
a little practice with the instructor. On the apparatus, the members of
the gymnastic six, including the two experts who were to carry the
school colours to Aldershot in the spring, would be performing their
usual marvels. It was worth dropping into the gymnasium of an evening.
In no other place in the school were so many sights to be seen.

When you were surfeited with sightseeing, you went off to your house.
And this was where the peculiar beauty of the gymnasium system came in.
You went up to any master who happened to be there--there was always
one at least--and observed in suave accents, "Please, sir, can I have a
paper?" Whereupon, he, taking a scrap of paper, would write upon it,
"J. O. Jones (or A. B. Smith or C. D. Robinson) left gymnasium at
such-and-such a time". And, by presenting this to the menial who
opened the door to you at your house, you went in rejoicing, and all
was peace.

Now, there was no mention on the paper of the hour at which you came to
the gymnasium--only of the hour at which you left. Consequently, certain
lawless spirits would range the neighbourhood after lock-up, and, by
putting in a quarter of an hour at the gymnasium before returning to
their houses, escape comment. To this class belonged the shadowy forms
previously mentioned.

O'Hara had forgotten this custom, with the result that he was not at
the vault when they arrived. Moriarty, to whom he confided between the
rounds the substance of his evening's discoveries, reminded him of it.
"It's no good watching before lock-up," he said. "After six is the time
they'll come, if they come at all."

"Bedad, ye're right," said O'Hara. "One of these nights we'll take a
night off from boxing, and go and watch."

"Right," said Moriarty. "Are ye ready to go on?"

"Yes. I'm going to practise that left swing at the body this round. The
one Fitzsimmons does." And they "put 'em up" once more.

Content of CHAPTER IX - MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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