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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter XIII - VICTIM NUMBER THREE
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The Gold Bat - Chapter XIII - VICTIM NUMBER THREE Post by :stephan Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3047

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"With reference to our last communication," ran the letter--the writer
evidently believed in the commercial style--"it may interest you to
know that the bat you lost by the statue on the night of the 26th of
January has come into our possession. _We observe that Barry is still
playing for the first fifteen._"

"And will jolly well continue to," muttered Trevor, crumpling the paper
viciously into a ball.

He went on writing the names for the Ripton match. The last name on the
list was Barry's.

Then he sat back in his chair, and began to wrestle with this new
development. Barry must play. That was certain. All the bluff in the
world was not going to keep him from playing the best man at his disposal
in the Ripton match. He himself did not count. It was the school he had
to think of. This being so, what was likely to happen? Though nothing
was said on the point, he felt certain that if he persisted in ignoring
the League, that bat would find its way somehow--by devious routes,
possibly--to the headmaster or some one else in authority. And then
there would be questions--awkward questions--and things would begin
to come out. Then a fresh point struck him, which was, that whatever
might happen would affect, not himself, but O'Hara. This made it rather
more of a problem how to act. Personally, he was one of those dogged
characters who can put up with almost anything themselves. If this had
been his affair, he would have gone on his way without hesitating.
Evidently the writer of the letter was under the impression that he
had been the hero (or villain) of the statue escapade.

If everything came out it did not require any great effort of prophecy
to predict what the result would be. O'Hara would go. Promptly. He
would receive his marching orders within ten minutes of the discovery
of what he had done. He would be expelled twice over, so to speak, once
for breaking out at night--one of the most heinous offences in the
school code--and once for tarring the statue. Anything that gave the
school a bad name in the town was a crime in the eyes of the powers,
and this was such a particularly flagrant case. Yes, there was no doubt
of that. O'Hara would take the first train home without waiting to pack
up. Trevor knew his people well, and he could imagine their feelings
when the prodigal strolled into their midst--an old Wrykinian _malgre
lui_. As the philosopher said of falling off a ladder, it is not the
falling that matters: it is the sudden stopping at the other end. It is
not the being expelled that is so peculiarly objectionable: it is the
sudden homecoming. With this gloomy vision before him, Trevor almost
wavered. But the thought that the selection of the team had nothing
whatever to do with his personal feelings strengthened him. He was
simply a machine, devised to select the fifteen best men in the school
to meet Ripton. In his official capacity of football captain he was not
supposed to have any feelings. However, he yielded in so far that he
went to Clowes to ask his opinion.

Clowes, having heard everything and seen the letter, unhesitatingly
voted for the right course. If fifty mad Irishmen were to be expelled,
Barry must play against Ripton. He was the best man, and in he must go.

"That's what I thought," said Trevor. "It's bad for O'Hara, though."

Clowes remarked somewhat tritely that business was business.

"Besides," he went on, "you're assuming that the thing this letter
hints at will really come off. I don't think it will. A man would have
to be such an awful blackguard to go as low as that. The least grain of
decency in him would stop him. I can imagine a man threatening to do it
as a piece of bluff--by the way, the letter doesn't actually say
anything of the sort, though I suppose it hints at it--but I can't
imagine anybody out of a melodrama doing it."

"You can never tell," said Trevor. He felt that this was but an outside
chance. The forbearance of one's antagonist is but a poor thing to
trust to at the best of times.

"Are you going to tell O'Hara?" asked Clowes.

"I don't see the good. Would you?"

"No. He can't do anything, and it would only give him a bad time. There
are pleasanter things, I should think, than going on from day to day not
knowing whether you're going to be sacked or not within the next twelve
hours. Don't tell him."

"I won't. And Barry plays against Ripton."

"Certainly. He's the best man."

"I'm going over to Seymour's now," said Trevor, after a pause, "to see
Milton. We've drawn Seymour's in the next round of the house-matches. I
suppose you knew. I want to get it over before the Ripton match, for
several reasons. About half the fifteen are playing on one side or the
other, and it'll give them a good chance of getting fit. Running and
passing is all right, but a good, hard game's the thing for putting you
into form. And then I was thinking that, as the side that loses,
whichever it is--"

"Seymour's, of course."

"Hope so. Well, they're bound to be a bit sick at losing, so they'll
play up all the harder on Saturday to console themselves for losing the

"My word, what strategy!" said Clowes. "You think of everything. When
do you think of playing it, then?"

"Wednesday struck me as a good day. Don't you think so?"

"It would do splendidly. It'll be a good match. For all practical
purposes, of course, it's the final. If we beat Seymour's, I don't
think the others will trouble us much."

There was just time to see Milton before lock-up. Trevor ran across to
Seymour's, and went up to his study.

"Come in," said Milton, in answer to his knock.

Trevor went in, and stood surprised at the difference in the look of
the place since the last time he had visited it. The walls, once
covered with photographs, were bare. Milton, seated before the fire,
was ruefully contemplating what looked like a heap of waste cardboard.

Trevor recognised the symptoms. He had had experience.

"You don't mean to say they've been at you, too!" he cried.

Milton's normally cheerful face was thunderous and gloomy.

"Yes. I was thinking what I'd like to do to the man who ragged it."

"It's the League again, I suppose?"

Milton looked surprised.

"_Again?_" he said, "where did _you hear of the League?
This is the first time I've heard of its existence, whatever it is.
What is the confounded thing, and why on earth have they played the
fool here? What's the meaning of this bally rot?"

He exhibited one of the variety of cards of which Trevor had already
seen two specimens. Trevor explained briefly the style and nature of
the League, and mentioned that his study also had been wrecked.

"Your study? Why, what have they got against you?"

"I don't know," said Trevor. Nothing was to be gained by speaking of
the letters he had received.

"Did they cut up your photographs?"

"Every one."

"I tell you what it is, Trevor, old chap," said Milton, with great
solemnity, "there's a lunatic in the school. That's what I make of it.
A lunatic whose form of madness is wrecking studies."

"But the same chap couldn't have done yours and mine. It must have been
a Donaldson's fellow who did mine, and one of your chaps who did yours
and Mill's."

"Mill's? By Jove, of course. I never thought of that. That was the
League, too, I suppose?"

"Yes. One of those cards was tied to a chair, but Clowes took it away
before anybody saw it."

Milton returned to the details of the disaster.

"Was there any ink spilt in your room?"

"Pints," said Trevor, shortly. The subject was painful.

"So there was here," said Milton, mournfully. "Gallons."

There was silence for a while, each pondering over his wrongs.

"Gallons," said Milton again. "I was ass enough to keep a large pot
full of it here, and they used it all, every drop. You never saw such a

Trevor said he had seen one similar spectacle.

"And my photographs! You remember those photographs I showed you? All
ruined. Slit across with a knife. Some torn in half. I wish I knew who
did that."

Trevor said he wished so, too.

"There was one of Mrs Patrick Campbell," Milton continued in
heartrending tones, "which was torn into sixteen pieces. I counted
them. There they are on the mantelpiece. And there was one of Little
Tich" (here he almost broke down), "which was so covered with ink that
for half an hour I couldn't recognise it. Fact."

Trevor nodded sympathetically.

"Yes," said Milton. "Soaked."

There was another silence. Trevor felt it would be almost an outrage to
discuss so prosaic a topic as the date of a house-match with one so
broken up. Yet time was flying, and lock-up was drawing near.

"Are you willing to play--" he began.

"I feel as if I could never play again," interrupted Milton. "You'd
hardly believe the amount of blotting-paper I've used today. It must
have been a lunatic, Dick, old man."

When Milton called Trevor "Dick", it was a sign that he was moved. When
he called him "Dick, old man", it gave evidence of an internal upheaval
without parallel.

"Why, who else but a lunatic would get up in the night to wreck another
chap's study? All this was done between eleven last night and seven
this morning. I turned in at eleven, and when I came down here again at
seven the place was a wreck. It must have been a lunatic."

"How do you account for the printed card from the League?"

Milton murmured something about madmen's cunning and diverting
suspicion, and relapsed into silence. Trevor seized the opportunity to
make the proposal he had come to make, that Donaldson's _v._
Seymour's should be played on the following Wednesday.

Milton agreed listlessly.

"Just where you're standing," he said, "I found a photograph of Sir
Henry Irving so slashed about that I thought at first it was Huntley
Wright in _San Toy_."

"Start at two-thirty sharp," said Trevor.

"I had seventeen of Edna May," continued the stricken Seymourite,
monotonously. "In various attitudes. All destroyed."

"On the first fifteen ground, of course," said Trevor. "I'll get
Aldridge to referee. That'll suit you, I suppose?"

"All right. Anything you like. Just by the fireplace I found the
remains of Arthur Roberts in _H.M.S. Irresponsible_. And part of
Seymour Hicks. Under the table--"

Trevor departed.

Content of CHAPTER XIII - VICTIM NUMBER THREE (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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