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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter XVIII - O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF
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The Gold Bat - Chapter XVIII - O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF Post by :chas1012 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2496

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The Gold Bat - Chapter XVIII - O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF

CHAPTER XVIII - O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF


It was Renford's turn next morning to get up and feed the ferrets.
Harvey had done it the day before.

Renford was not a youth who enjoyed early rising, but in the cause of
the ferrets he would have endured anything, so at six punctually he
slid out of bed, dressed quietly, so as not to disturb the rest of the
dormitory, and ran over to the vault. To his utter amazement he found
it locked. Such a thing had never been done before in the whole course
of his experience. He tugged at the handle, but not an inch or a
fraction of an inch would the door yield. The policy of the Open Door
had ceased to find favour in the eyes of the authorities.

A feeling of blank despair seized upon him. He thought of the dismay of
the ferrets when they woke up and realised that there was no chance of
breakfast for them. And then they would gradually waste away, and some
day somebody would go down to the vault to fetch chairs, and would come
upon two mouldering skeletons, and wonder what they had once been. He
almost wept at the vision so conjured up.

There was nobody about. Perhaps he might break in somehow. But then
there was nothing to get to work with. He could not kick the door down.
No, he must give it up, and the ferrets' breakfast-hour must be
postponed. Possibly Harvey might be able to think of something.

"Fed 'em?" inquired Harvey, when they met at breakfast.

"No, I couldn't."

"Why on earth not? You didn't oversleep yourself?"

Renford poured his tale into his friend's shocked ears.

"My hat!" said Harvey, when he had finished, "what on earth are we to
do? They'll starve."

Renford nodded mournfully.

"Whatever made them go and lock the door?" he said.

He seemed to think the authorities should have given him due notice of
such an action.

"You're sure they have locked it? It isn't only stuck or something?"

"I lugged at the handle for hours. But you can go and see for yourself
if you like."

Harvey went, and, waiting till the coast was clear, attached himself to
the handle with a prehensile grasp, and put his back into one strenuous
tug. It was even as Renford had said. The door was locked beyond
possibility of doubt.

Renford and he went over to school that morning with long faces and a
general air of acute depression. It was perhaps fortunate for their
purpose that they did, for had their appearance been normal it might
not have attracted O'Hara's attention. As it was, the Irishman, meeting
them on the junior gravel, stopped and asked them what was wrong. Since
the adventure in the vault, he had felt an interest in Renford and
Harvey.

The two told their story in alternate sentences like the Strophe and
Antistrophe of a Greek chorus. ("Steichomuthics," your Greek scholar
calls it, I fancy. Ha, yes! Just so.)

"So ye can't get in because they've locked the door, an' ye don't know
what to do about it?" said O'Hara, at the conclusion of the narrative.

Renford and Harvey informed him in chorus that that _was the
state of the game up to present date.

"An' ye want me to get them out for you?"

Neither had dared to hope that he would go so far as this. What they
had looked for had been at the most a few thoughtful words of advice.
That such a master-strategist as O'Hara should take up their cause was
an unexampled piece of good luck.

"If you only would," said Harvey.

"We should be most awfully obliged," said Renford.

"Very well," said O'Hara.

They thanked him profusely.

O'Hara replied that it would be a privilege.

He should be sorry, he said, to have anything happen to the ferrets.

Renford and Harvey went on into school feeling more cheerful. If the
ferrets could be extracted from their present tight corner, O'Hara was
the man to do it.

O'Hara had not made his offer of assistance in any spirit of doubt. He
was certain that he could do what he had promised. For it had not
escaped his memory that this was a Tuesday--in other words, a
mathematics morning up to the quarter to eleven interval. That meant,
as has been explained previously, that, while the rest of the school
were in the form-rooms, he would be out in the passage, if he cared to
be. There would be no witnesses to what he was going to do.

But, by that curious perversity of fate which is so often noticeable,
Mr Banks was in a peculiarly lamb-like and long-suffering mood this
morning. Actions for which O'Hara would on other days have been
expelled from the room without hope of return, today were greeted with
a mild "Don't do that, please, O'Hara," or even the ridiculously
inadequate "O'Hara!" It was perfectly disheartening. O'Hara began to
ask himself bitterly what was the use of ragging at all if this was how
it was received. And the moments were flying, and his promise to
Renford and Harvey still remained unfulfilled.

He prepared for fresh efforts.

So desperate was he, that he even resorted to crude methods like the
throwing of paper balls and the dropping of books. And when your really
scientific ragger sinks to this, he is nearing the end of his tether.
O'Hara hated to be rude, but there seemed no help for it.

The striking of a quarter past ten improved his chances. It had been
privily agreed upon beforehand amongst the members of the class that at
a quarter past ten every one was to sneeze simultaneously. The noise
startled Mr Banks considerably. The angelic mood began to wear off. A
man may be long-suffering, but he likes to draw the line somewhere.

"Another exhibition like that," he said, sharply, "and the class stays
in after school, O'Hara!"

"Sir?"

"Silence."

"I said nothing, sir, really."

"Boy, you made a cat-like noise with your mouth."

"What _sort of noise, sir?"

The form waited breathlessly. This peculiarly insidious question had
been invented for mathematical use by one Sandys, who had left at the
end of the previous summer. It was but rarely that the master increased
the gaiety of nations by answering the question in the manner desired.

Mr Banks, off his guard, fell into the trap.

"A noise like this," he said curtly, and to the delighted audience came
the melodious sound of a "Mi-aou", which put O'Hara's effort completely
in the shade, and would have challenged comparison with the war-cry of
the stoutest mouser that ever trod a tile.

A storm of imitations arose from all parts of the room. Mr Banks turned
pink, and, going straight to the root of the disturbance, forthwith
evicted O'Hara.

O'Hara left with the satisfying feeling that his duty had been done.

Mr Banks' room was at the top of the middle block. He ran softly down
the stairs at his best pace. It was not likely that the master would
come out into the passage to see if he was still there, but it might
happen, and it would be best to run as few risks as possible.

He sprinted over to the junior block, raised the trap-door, and jumped
down. He knew where the ferrets had been placed, and had no difficulty
in finding them. In another minute he was in the passage again, with
the trap-door bolted behind him.

He now asked himself--what should he do with them? He must find a safe
place, or his labours would have been in vain.

Behind the fives-court, he thought, would be the spot. Nobody ever went
there. It meant a run of three hundred yards there and the same
distance back, and there was more than a chance that he might be seen
by one of the Powers. In which case he might find it rather hard to
explain what he was doing in the middle of the grounds with a couple of
ferrets in his possession when the hands of the clock pointed to twenty
minutes to eleven.

But the odds were against his being seen. He risked it.

When the bell rang for the quarter to eleven interval the ferrets were
in their new home, happily discussing a piece of meat--Renford's
contribution, held over from the morning's meal,--and O'Hara, looking
as if he had never left the passage for an instant, was making his way
through the departing mathematical class to apologise handsomely to Mr
Banks--as was his invariable custom--for his disgraceful behaviour
during the morning's lesson.

Content of CHAPTER XVIII - O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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