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The Gold Bat - Chapter XII - NEWS OF THE GOLD BAT Post by :slinger147 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1147

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The Gold Bat - Chapter XII - NEWS OF THE GOLD BAT

CHAPTER XII - NEWS OF THE GOLD BAT


Shoeblossom sat disconsolately on the table in the senior day-room. He
was not happy in exile. Brewing in the senior day-room was a mere
vulgar brawl, lacking all the refining influences of the study. You had
to fight for a place at the fire, and when you had got it 'twas not
always easy to keep it, and there was no privacy, and the fellows were
always bear-fighting, so that it was impossible to read a book quietly
for ten consecutive minutes without some ass heaving a cushion at you
or turning out the gas. Altogether Shoeblossom yearned for the peace of
his study, and wished earnestly that Mr Seymour would withdraw the
order of banishment. It was the not being able to read that he objected
to chiefly. In place of brewing, the ex-proprietors of studies five,
six, and seven now made a practice of going to the school shop. It was
more expensive and not nearly so comfortable--there is a romance about
a study brew which you can never get anywhere else--but it served, and
it was not on this score that he grumbled most. What he hated was
having to live in a bear-garden. For Shoeblossom was a man of moods.
Give him two or three congenial spirits to back him up, and he would
lead the revels with the _abandon of a Mr Bultitude (after his
return to his original form). But he liked to choose his accomplices,
and the gay sparks of the senior day-room did not appeal to him. They
were not intellectual enough. In his lucid intervals, he was accustomed
to be almost abnormally solemn and respectable. When not promoting some
unholy rag, Shoeblossom resembled an elderly gentleman of studious
habits. He liked to sit in a comfortable chair and read a book. It was
the impossibility of doing this in the senior day-room that led him to
try and think of some other haven where he might rest. Had it been
summer, he would have taken some literature out on to the cricket-field
or the downs, and put in a little steady reading there, with the aid of
a bag of cherries. But with the thermometer low, that was impossible.

He felt very lonely and dismal. He was not a man with many friends. In
fact, Barry and the other three were almost the only members of the
house with whom he was on speaking-terms. And of these four he saw very
little. Drummond and Barry were always out of doors or over at the
gymnasium, and as for M'Todd and De Bertini, it was not worth while
talking to the one, and impossible to talk to the other. No wonder
Shoeblossom felt dull. Once Barry and Drummond had taken him over to
the gymnasium with them, but this had bored him worse than ever. They
had been hard at it all the time--for, unlike a good many of the
school, they went to the gymnasium for business, not to lounge--and he
had had to sit about watching them. And watching gymnastics was one of
the things he most loathed. Since then he had refused to go.

That night matters came to a head. Just as he had settled down to read,
somebody, in flinging a cushion across the room, brought down the gas
apparatus with a run, and before light was once more restored it was
tea-time. After that there was preparation, which lasted for two hours,
and by the time he had to go to bed he had not been able to read a
single page of the enthralling work with which he was at present
occupied.

He had just got into bed when he was struck with a brilliant idea. Why
waste the precious hours in sleep? What was that saying of somebody's,
"Five hours for a wise man, six for somebody else--he forgot whom--eight
for a fool, nine for an idiot," or words to that effect? Five hours
sleep would mean that he need not go to bed till half past two. In the
meanwhile he could be finding out exactly what the hero _did do when
he found out (to his horror) that it was his cousin Jasper who had
really killed the old gentleman in the wood. The only question was--how
was he to do his reading? Prefects were allowed to work on after lights
out in their dormitories by the aid of a candle, but to the ordinary
mortal this was forbidden.

Then he was struck with another brilliant idea. It is a curious thing
about ideas. You do not get one for over a month, and then there comes
a rush of them, all brilliant. Why, he thought, should he not go and
read in his study with a dark lantern? He had a dark lantern. It was
one of the things he had found lying about at home on the last day of
the holidays, and had brought with him to school. It was his custom to
go about the house just before the holidays ended, snapping up
unconsidered trifles, which might or might not come in useful. This
term he had brought back a curious metal vase (which looked Indian, but
which had probably been made in Birmingham the year before last), two
old coins (of no mortal use to anybody in the world, including
himself), and the dark lantern. It was reposing now in the cupboard in
his study nearest the window.

He had brought his book up with him on coming to bed, on the chance
that he might have time to read a page or two if he woke up early. (He
had always been doubtful about that man Jasper. For one thing, he had
been seen pawning the old gentleman's watch on the afternoon of the
murder, which was a suspicious circumstance, and then he was not a nice
character at all, and just the sort of man who would be likely to murder
old gentlemen in woods.) He waited till Mr Seymour had paid his nightly
visit--he went the round of the dormitories at about eleven--and then he
chuckled gently. If Mill, the dormitory prefect, was awake, the chuckle
would make him speak, for Mill was of a suspicious nature, and believed
that it was only his unintermitted vigilance which prevented the
dormitory ragging all night.

Mill _was awake.

"Be quiet, there," he growled. "Shut up that noise."

Shoeblossom felt that the time was not yet ripe for his departure. Half
an hour later he tried again. There was no rebuke. To make certain he
emitted a second chuckle, replete with sinister meaning. A slight snore
came from the direction of Mill's bed. Shoeblossom crept out of the
room, and hurried to his study. The door was not locked, for Mr Seymour
had relied on his commands being sufficient to keep the owner out of
it. He slipped in, found and lit the dark lantern, and settled down to
read. He read with feverish excitement. The thing was, you see, that
though Claud Trevelyan (that was the hero) knew jolly well that it was
Jasper who had done the murder, the police didn't, and, as he (Claud)
was too noble to tell them, he had himself been arrested on suspicion.
Shoeblossom was skimming through the pages with starting eyes, when
suddenly his attention was taken from his book by a sound. It was a
footstep. Somebody was coming down the passage, and under the door
filtered a thin stream of light. To snap the dark slide over the
lantern and dart to the door, so that if it opened he would be behind
it, was with him, as Mr Claud Trevelyan might have remarked, the work
of a moment. He heard the door of study number five flung open, and
then the footsteps passed on, and stopped opposite his own den. The
handle turned, and the light of a candle flashed into the room, to be
extinguished instantly as the draught of the moving door caught it.

Shoeblossom heard his visitor utter an exclamation of annoyance, and
fumble in his pocket for matches. He recognised the voice. It was Mr
Seymour's. The fact was that Mr Seymour had had the same experience as
General Stanley in _The Pirates of Penzance_:

The man who finds his conscience ache,
No peace at all enjoys;
And, as I lay in bed awake,
I thought I heard a noise.

Whether Mr Seymour's conscience ached or not, cannot, of course, be
discovered. But he had certainly thought he heard a noise, and he had
come to investigate.

The search for matches had so far proved fruitless. Shoeblossom stood
and quaked behind the door. The reek of hot tin from the dark lantern
grew worse momentarily. Mr Seymour sniffed several times, until
Shoeblossom thought that he must be discovered. Then, to his immense
relief, the master walked away. Shoeblossom's chance had come. Mr
Seymour had probably gone to get some matches to relight his candle. It
was far from likely that the episode was closed. He would be back again
presently. If Shoeblossom was going to escape, he must do it now, so he
waited till the footsteps had passed away, and then darted out in the
direction of his dormitory.

As he was passing Milton's study, a white figure glided out of it. All
that he had ever read or heard of spectres rushed into Shoeblossom's
petrified brain. He wished he was safely in bed. He wished he had never
come out of it. He wished he had led a better and nobler life. He
wished he had never been born.

The figure passed quite close to him as he stood glued against the
wall, and he saw it disappear into the dormitory opposite his own, of
which Rigby was prefect. He blushed hotly at the thought of the fright
he had been in. It was only somebody playing the same game as himself.

He jumped into bed and lay down, having first plunged the lantern
bodily into his jug to extinguish it. Its indignant hiss had scarcely
died away when Mr Seymour appeared at the door. It had occurred to Mr
Seymour that he had smelt something very much out of the ordinary in
Shoeblossom's study, a smell uncommonly like that of hot tin. And a
suspicion dawned on him that Shoeblossom had been in there with a dark
lantern. He had come to the dormitory to confirm his suspicions. But a
glance showed him how unjust they had been. There was Shoeblossom fast
asleep. Mr Seymour therefore followed the excellent example of my Lord
Tomnoddy on a celebrated occasion, and went off to bed.

* * * * *

It was the custom for the captain of football at Wrykyn to select and
publish the team for the Ripton match a week before the day on which it
was to be played. On the evening after the Nomads' match, Trevor was
sitting in his study writing out the names, when there came a knock at
the door, and his fag entered with a letter.

"This has just come, Trevor," he said.

"All right. Put it down."

The fag left the room. Trevor picked up the letter. The handwriting was
strange to him. The words had been printed. Then it flashed upon him
that he had received a letter once before addressed in the same
way--the letter from the League about Barry. Was this, too, from
that address? He opened it.

It was.

He read it, and gasped. The worst had happened. The gold bat was in the
hands of the enemy.

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

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