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White Feather - Chapter I - EXPERT OPINIONS Post by :David_Smyth Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3453

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White Feather - Chapter I - EXPERT OPINIONS




The time of this story is a year and a term later than
that of _The Gold Bat. The history of Wrykyn in
between these two books is dealt with in a number of
short stories, some of them brainy in the extreme, which
have appeared in various magazines. I wanted Messrs Black
to publish these, but they were light on their feet and
kept away--a painful exhibition of the White Feather.

P. G. Wodehouse



"With apologies to gent opposite," said Clowes, "I must say I don't
think much of the team."

"Don't apologise to _me_," said Allardyce disgustedly, as he
filled the teapot, "I think they're rotten."

"They ought to have got into form by now, too," said Trevor. "It's not
as if this was the first game of the term."

"First game!" Allardyce laughed shortly. "Why, we've only got a couple
of club matches and the return match with Ripton to end the season. It
is about time they got into form, as you say."

Clowes stared pensively into the fire.

"They struck me," he said, "as the sort of team who'd get into form
somewhere in the middle of the cricket season."

"That's about it," said Allardyce. "Try those biscuits, Trevor. They're
about the only good thing left in the place."

"School isn't what it was?" inquired Trevor, plunging a hand into the
tin that stood on the floor beside him.

"No," said Allardyce, "not only in footer but in everything. The place
seems absolutely rotten. It's bad enough losing all our matches, or
nearly all. Did you hear that Ripton took thirty-seven points off us
last term? And we only just managed to beat Greenburgh by a try to

"We got thirty points last year," he went on. "Thirty-three, and
forty-two the year before. Why, we've always simply walked them. It's
an understood thing that we smash them. And this year they held us all
the time, and it was only a fluke that we scored at all. Their back
miskicked, and let Barry in."

"Barry struck me as the best of the outsides today," said Clowes. "He's
heavier than he was, and faster."

"He's all right," agreed Allardyce. "If only the centres would feed
him, we might do something occasionally. But did you ever see such a
pair of rotters?"

"The man who was marking me certainly didn't seem particularly
brilliant. I don't even know his name. He didn't do anything at footer
in my time," said Trevor.

"He's a chap called Attell. He wasn't here with you. He came after the
summer holidays. I believe he was sacked from somewhere. He's no good,
but there's nobody else. Colours have been simply a gift this year to
anyone who can do a thing. Only Barry and myself left from last year's
team. I never saw such a clearance as there was after the summer term."

"Where are the boys of the Old Brigade?" sighed Clowes.

"I don't know. I wish they were here," said Allardyce.

Trevor and Clowes had come down, after the Easter term had been in
progress for a fortnight, to play for an Oxford A team against the
school. The match had resulted in an absurdly easy victory for the
visitors by over forty points. Clowes had scored five tries off his own
bat, and Trevor, if he had not fed his wing so conscientiously, would
probably have scored an equal number. As it was, he had got through
twice, and also dropped a goal. The two were now having a late tea with
Allardyce in his study. Allardyce had succeeded Trevor as Captain of
Football at Wrykyn, and had found the post anything but a sinecure.

For Wrykyn had fallen for the time being on evil days. It was
experiencing the reaction which so often takes place in a school in the
year following a season of exceptional athletic prosperity. With Trevor
as captain of football, both the Ripton matches had been won, and also
three out of the four other school matches. In cricket the eleven had
had an even finer record, winning all their school matches, and
likewise beating the M.C.C. and Old Wrykinians. It was too early to
prophesy concerning the fortunes of next term's cricket team, but, if
they were going to resemble the fifteen, Wrykyn was doomed to the worst
athletic year it had experienced for a decade.

"It's a bit of a come-down after last season, isn't it?" resumed
Allardyce, returning to his sorrows. It was a relief to him to discuss
his painful case without restraint.

"We were a fine team last year," agreed Clowes, "and especially strong
on the left wing. By the way, I see you've moved Barry across."

"Yes. Attell can't pass much, but he passes better from right to left
than from left to right; so, Barry being our scoring man, I shifted him
across. The chap on the other wing, Stanning, isn't bad at times. Do
you remember him? He's in Appleby's. Then Drummond's useful at half."

"Jolly useful," said Trevor. "I thought he would be. I recommended you
last year to keep your eye on him."

"Decent chap, Drummond," said Clowes.

"About the only one there is left in the place," observed Allardyce

"Our genial host," said Clowes, sawing at the cake, "appears to have
that tired feeling. He seems to have lost that _joie de vivre of
his, what?"

"It must be pretty sickening," said Trevor sympathetically. "I'm glad I
wasn't captain in a bad year."

"The rummy thing is that the worse they are, the more side they stick
on. You see chaps who wouldn't have been in the third in a good year
walking about in first fifteen blazers, and first fifteen scarves, and
first fifteen stockings, and sweaters with first fifteen colours round
the edges. I wonder they don't tattoo their faces with first fifteen

"It would improve some of them," said Clowes.

Allardyce resumed his melancholy remarks. "But, as I was saying, it's
not only that the footer's rotten. That you can't help, I suppose. It's
the general beastliness of things that I bar. Rows with the town, for
instance. We've been having them on and off ever since you left. And
it'll be worse now, because there's an election coming off soon. Are
you fellows stopping for the night in the town? If so, I should advise
you to look out for yourselves."

"Thanks," said Clowes. "I shouldn't like to see Trevor sand-bagged. Nor
indeed, should I--for choice--care to be sand-bagged myself. But, as it
happens, the good Donaldson is putting us up, so we escape the perils
of the town.

"Everybody seems so beastly slack now," continued Allardyce. "It's
considered the thing. You're looked on as an awful blood if you say you
haven't done a stroke of work for a week. I shouldn't mind that so much
if they were some good at anything. But they can't do a thing. The
footer's rotten, the gymnasium six is made up of kids an inch high--we
shall probably be about ninetieth at the Public Schools'
Competition--and there isn't any one who can play racquets for nuts.
The only thing that Wrykyn'll do this year is to get the Light-Weights
at Aldershot. Drummond ought to manage that. He won the Feathers last
time. He's nearly a stone heavier now, and awfully good. But he's the
only man we shall send up, I expect. Now that O'Hara and Moriarty are
both gone, he's the only chap we have who's up to Aldershot form. And
nobody else'll take the trouble to practice. They're all too slack."

"In fact," said Clowes, getting up, "as was only to be expected, the
school started going to the dogs directly I left. We shall have to be
pushing on now, Allardyce. We promised to look in on Seymour before we
went to bed. Friend let us away."

"Good night," said Allardyce.

"What you want," said Clowes solemnly, "is a liver pill. You are
looking on life too gloomily. Take a pill. Let there be no stint. Take
two. Then we shall hear your merry laugh ringing through the old
cloisters once more. Buck up and be a bright and happy lad, Allardyce."

"Take more than a pill to make me that," growled that soured

Mr Seymour's views on the school resembled those of Allardyce. Wrykyn,
in his opinion, was suffering from a reaction.

"It's always the same," he said, "after a very good year. Boys leave,
and it's hard to fill their places. I must say I did not expect quite
such a clearing out after the summer. We have had bad luck in that way.
Maurice, for instance, and Robinson both ought to have had another year
at school. It was quite unexpected, their leaving. They would have made
all the difference to the forwards. You must have somebody to lead the
pack who has had a little experience of first fifteen matches."

"But even then" said Clowes, "they oughtn't to be so rank as they were
this afternoon. They seemed such slackers."

"I'm afraid that's the failing of the school just now," agreed Mr
Seymour. "They don't play themselves out. They don't put just that last
ounce into their work which makes all the difference."

Clowes thought of saying that, to judge by appearances, they did not
put in even the first ounce; but refrained. However low an opinion a
games' master may have--and even express--of his team, he does not like
people to agree too cordially with his criticisms.

"Allardyce seems rather sick about it," said Trevor.

"I am sorry for Allardyce. It is always unpleasant to be the only
survivor of an exceptionally good team. He can't forget last year's
matches, and suffers continual disappointments because the present team
does not play up to the same form."

"He was saying something about rows with the town," said Trevor, after
a pause.

"Yes, there has certainly been some unpleasantness lately. It is the
penalty we pay for being on the outskirts of a town. Four years out of
five nothing happens. But in the fifth, when the school has got a
little out of hand--"

"Oh, then it really _has got out of hand?" asked Clowes.

"Between ourselves, yes," admitted Mr Seymour.

"What sort of rows?" asked Trevor.

Mr Seymour couldn't explain exactly. Nothing, as it were, definite--as
yet. No actual complaints so far. But still--well, trouble--yes,

"For instance," he said, "a boy in my house, Linton--you remember
him?--is moving in society at this moment with a swollen lip and minus
a front tooth. Of course, I know nothing about it, but I fancy he got
into trouble in the town. That is merely a straw which shows how the
wind is blowing, but if you lived on the spot you would see more what I
mean. There is trouble in the air. And now that this election is coming
on, I should not wonder if things came to a head. I can't remember a
single election in Wrykyn when there was not disorder in the town. And
if the school is going to join in, as it probably will, I shall not be
sorry when the holidays come. I know the headmaster is only waiting for
an excuse to put the town out of bounds.'

"But the kids have always had a few rows on with that school in the
High Street--what's it's name--St Something?" said Clowes.

"Jude's," supplied Trevor.

"St Jude's!" said Mr Seymour. "Have they? I didn't know that."

"Oh yes. I don't know how it started, but it's been going on for two or
three years now. It's a School House feud really, but Dexter's are
mixed up in it somehow. If a School House fag goes down town he runs
like an antelope along the High Street, unless he's got one or two
friends with him. I saved dozens of kids from destruction when I was at
school. The St Jude's fellows lie in wait, and dash out on them. I used
to find School House fags fighting for their lives in back alleys. The
enemy fled on my approach. My air of majesty overawed them."

"But a junior school feud matters very little," said Mr Seymour. "You
say it has been going on for three years; and I have never heard of it
till now. It is when the bigger fellows get mixed up with the town that
we have to interfere. I wish the headmaster would put the place out of
bounds entirely until the election is over. Except at election time,
the town seems to go to sleep."

"That's what we ought to be doing," said Clowes to Trevor. "I think we
had better be off now, sir. We promised Mr Donaldson to be in some time

"It's later than I thought," said Mr Seymour. "Good night, Clowes. How
many tries was it that you scored this afternoon? Five? I wish you were
still here, to score them for instead of against us. Good night,
Trevor. I was glad to see they tried you for Oxford, though you didn't
get your blue. You'll be in next year all right. Good night."

The two Old Wrykinians walked along the road towards Donaldson's. It
was a fine night, but misty.

"Jove, I'm quite tired," said Clowes. "Hullo!"

"What's up?"

They were opposite Appleby's at the moment. Clowes drew him into the
shadow of the fence.

"There's a chap breaking out. I saw him shinning down a rope. Let's
wait, and see who it is."

A moment later somebody ran softly through the gateway and disappeared
down the road that led to the town.

"Who was it?" said Trevor. "I couldn't see."

"I spotted him all right. It was that chap who was marking me today,
Stanning. Wonder what he's after. Perhaps he's gone to tar the statue,
like O'Hara. Rather a sportsman."

"Rather a silly idiot," said Trevor. "I hope he gets caught."

"You always were one of those kind sympathetic chaps," said Clowes.
"Come on, or Donaldson'll be locking us out."

Content of CHAPTER I - EXPERT OPINIONS (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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