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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter XX - THE FINDING OF THE BAT
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The Gold Bat - Chapter XX - THE FINDING OF THE BAT Post by :disgust Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2727

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The Gold Bat - Chapter XX - THE FINDING OF THE BAT

CHAPTER XX - THE FINDING OF THE BAT


Trevor waited till the headmaster had gone back to his library, gave
him five minutes to settle down, and then went in.

The headmaster looked up inquiringly.

"My essay, sir," said Trevor.

"Ah, yes. I had forgotten."

Trevor opened the notebook and began to read what he had written. He
finished the paragraph which owed its insertion to Clowes, and raced
hurriedly on to the next. To his surprise the flippancy passed
unnoticed, at any rate, verbally. As a rule the headmaster preferred
that quotations from back numbers of _Punch should be kept out of
the prefects' English Essays. And he generally said as much. But today
he seemed strangely preoccupied. A split infinitive in paragraph five,
which at other times would have made him sit up in his chair stiff with
horror, elicited no remark. The same immunity was accorded to the
insertion (inspired by Clowes, as usual) of a popular catch phrase in
the last few lines. Trevor finished with the feeling that luck had
favoured him nobly.

"Yes," said the headmaster, seemingly roused by the silence following
on the conclusion of the essay. "Yes." Then, after a long pause, "Yes,"
again.

Trevor said nothing, but waited for further comment.

"Yes," said the headmaster once more, "I think that is a very
fair essay. Very fair. It wants a little more--er--not quite so
much--um--yes."

Trevor made a note in his mind to effect these improvements in future
essays, and was getting up, when the headmaster stopped him.

"Don't go, Trevor. I wish to speak to you."

Trevor's first thought was, perhaps naturally, that the bat was going to
be brought into discussion. He was wondering helplessly how he was going
to keep O'Hara and his midnight exploit out of the conversation, when
the headmaster resumed. "An unpleasant thing has happened, Trevor--"

"Now we're coming to it," thought Trevor.

"It appears, Trevor, that a considerable amount of smoking has been
going on in the school."

Trevor breathed freely once more. It was only going to be a mere
conventional smoking row after all. He listened with more enjoyment
as the headmaster, having stopped to turn down the wick of the
reading-lamp which stood on the table at his side, and which had
begun, appropriately enough, to smoke, resumed his discourse.

"Mr Dexter--"

Of course, thought Trevor. If there ever was a row in the school,
Dexter was bound to be at the bottom of it.

"Mr Dexter has just been in to see me. He reported six boys. He
discovered them in the vault beneath the junior block. Two of them were
boys in your house."

Trevor murmured something wordless, to show that the story interested
him.

"You knew nothing of this, of course--"

"No, sir."

"No. Of course not. It is difficult for the head of a house to know all
that goes on in that house."

Was this his beastly sarcasm? Trevor asked himself. But he came to the
conclusion that it was not. After all, the head of a house is only
human. He cannot be expected to keep an eye on the private life of
every member of his house.

"This must be stopped, Trevor. There is no saying how widespread the
practice has become or may become. What I want you to do is to go
straight back to your house and begin a complete search of the
studies."

"Tonight, sir?" It seemed too late for such amusement.

"Tonight. But before you go to your house, call at Mr Seymour's, and
tell Milton I should like to see him. And, Trevor."

"Yes, sir?"

"You will understand that I am leaving this matter to you to be dealt
with by you. I shall not require you to make any report to me. But if
you should find tobacco in any boy's room, you must punish him well,
Trevor. Punish him well."

This meant that the culprit must be "touched up" before the house
assembled in the dining-room. Such an event did not often occur. The
last occasion had been in Paget's first term as head of Donaldson's,
when two of the senior day-room had been discovered attempting to
revive the ancient and dishonourable custom of bullying. This time,
Trevor foresaw, would set up a record in all probability. There might
be any number of devotees of the weed, and he meant to carry out his
instructions to the full, and make the criminals more unhappy than they
had been since the day of their first cigar. Trevor hated the habit of
smoking at school. He was so intensely keen on the success of the house
and the school at games, that anything which tended to damage the wind
and eye filled him with loathing. That anybody should dare to smoke in
a house which was going to play in the final for the House Football Cup
made him rage internally, and he proposed to make things bad and
unrestful for such.

To smoke at school is to insult the divine weed. When you are obliged
to smoke in odd corners, fearing every moment that you will be
discovered, the whole meaning, poetry, romance of a pipe vanishes, and
you become like those lost beings who smoke when they are running to
catch trains. The boy who smokes at school is bound to come to a bad
end. He will degenerate gradually into a person that plays dominoes in
the smoking-rooms of A.B.C. shops with friends who wear bowler hats and
frock coats.

Much of this philosophy Trevor expounded to Clowes in energetic
language when he returned to Donaldson's after calling at Seymour's to
deliver the message for Milton.

Clowes became quite animated at the prospect of a real row.

"We shall be able to see the skeletons in their cupboards," he
observed. "Every man has a skeleton in his cupboard, which follows him
about wherever he goes. Which study shall we go to first?"

"We?" said Trevor.

"We," repeated Clowes firmly. "I am not going to be left out of this
jaunt. I need bracing up--I'm not strong, you know--and this is just
the thing to do it. Besides, you'll want a bodyguard of some sort, in
case the infuriated occupant turns and rends you."

"I don't see what there is to enjoy in the business," said Trevor,
gloomily. "Personally, I bar this kind of thing. By the time we've
finished, there won't be a chap in the house I'm on speaking terms
with."

"Except me, dearest," said Clowes. "I will never desert you. It's of no
use asking me, for I will never do it. Mr Micawber has his faults, but
I will _never desert Mr Micawber."

"You can come if you like," said Trevor; "we'll take the studies in
order. I suppose we needn't look up the prefects?"

"A prefect is above suspicion. Scratch the prefects."

"That brings us to Dixon."

Dixon was a stout youth with spectacles, who was popularly supposed to
do twenty-two hours' work a day. It was believed that he put in two
hours sleep from eleven to one, and then got up and worked in his study
till breakfast.

He was working when Clowes and Trevor came in. He dived head foremost
into a huge Liddell and Scott as the door opened. On hearing Trevor's
voice he slowly emerged, and a pair of round and spectacled eyes gazed
blankly at the visitors. Trevor briefly explained his errand, but the
interview lost in solemnity owing to the fact that the bare notion of
Dixon storing tobacco in his room made Clowes roar with laughter. Also,
Dixon stolidly refused to understand what Trevor was talking about, and
at the end of ten minutes, finding it hopeless to try and explain, the
two went. Dixon, with a hazy impression that he had been asked to join
in some sort of round game, and had refused the offer, returned again
to his Liddell and Scott, and continued to wrestle with the somewhat
obscure utterances of the chorus in AEschylus' _Agamemnon_. The
results of this fiasco on Trevor and Clowes were widely different.
Trevor it depressed horribly. It made him feel savage. Clowes, on the
other hand, regarded the whole affair in a spirit of rollicking farce,
and refused to see that this was a serious matter, in which the honour
of the house was involved.

The next study was Ruthven's. This fact somewhat toned down the
exuberances of Clowes's demeanour. When one particularly dislikes a
person, one has a curious objection to seeming in good spirits in his
presence. One feels that he may take it as a sort of compliment to
himself, or, at any rate, contribute grins of his own, which would be
hateful. Clowes was as grave as Trevor when they entered the study.

Ruthven's study was like himself, overdressed and rather futile. It ran
to little china ornaments in a good deal of profusion. It was more like
a drawing-room than a school study.

"Sorry to disturb you, Ruthven," said Trevor.

"Oh, come in," said Ruthven, in a tired voice. "Please shut the door;
there is a draught. Do you want anything?"

"We've got to have a look round," said Clowes.

"Can't you see everything there is?"

Ruthven hated Clowes as much as Clowes hated him.

Trevor cut into the conversation again.

"It's like this, Ruthven," he said. "I'm awfully sorry, but the Old
Man's just told me to search the studies in case any of the fellows
have got baccy."

Ruthven jumped up, pale with consternation.

"You can't. I won't have you disturbing my study."

"This is rot," said Trevor, shortly, "I've got to. It's no good making
it more unpleasant for me than it is."

"But I've no tobacco. I swear I haven't."

"Then why mind us searching?" said Clowes affably.

"Come on, Ruthven," said Trevor, "chuck us over the keys. You might as
well."

"I won't."

"Don't be an ass, man."

"We have here," observed Clowes, in his sad, solemn way, "a stout and
serviceable poker." He stooped, as he spoke, to pick it up.

"Leave that poker alone," cried Ruthven.

Clowes straightened himself.

"I'll swop it for your keys," he said.

"Don't be a fool."

"Very well, then. We will now crack our first crib."

Ruthven sprang forward, but Clowes, handing him off in football fashion
with his left hand, with his right dashed the poker against the lock of
the drawer of the table by which he stood.

The lock broke with a sharp crack. It was not built with an eye to such
onslaught.

"Neat for a first shot," said Clowes, complacently. "Now for the
Umustaphas and shag."

But as he looked into the drawer he uttered a sudden cry of excitement.
He drew something out, and tossed it over to Trevor.

"Catch, Trevor," he said quietly. "Something that'll interest you."

Trevor caught it neatly in one hand, and stood staring at it as if he
had never seen anything like it before. And yet he had--often. For what
he had caught was a little golden bat, about an inch long by an eighth
of an inch wide.

Content of CHAPTER XX - THE FINDING OF THE BAT (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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