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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter V - THE WHITE FEATHER
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White Feather - Chapter V - THE WHITE FEATHER Post by :AndrewMurray Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1530

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White Feather - Chapter V - THE WHITE FEATHER

CHAPTER V - THE WHITE FEATHER


It was not until he had reached his study that Sheen thoroughly
realised what he had done. All the way home he had been defending
himself eloquently against an imaginary accuser; and he had built up a
very sound, thoughtful, and logical series of arguments to show that he
was not only not to blame for what he had done, but had acted in highly
statesmanlike and praiseworthy manner. After all, he was in the sixth.
Not a prefect, it was true, but, still, practically a prefect. The
headmaster disliked unpleasantness between school and town, much more
so between the sixth form of the school and the town. Therefore, he had
done his duty in refusing to be drawn into a fight with Albert and
friends. Besides, why should he be expected to join in whenever he saw
a couple of fellows fighting? It wasn't reasonable. It was no business
of his. Why, it was absurd. He had no quarrel with those fellows. It
wasn't cowardice. It was simply that he had kept his head better than
Drummond, and seen further into the matter. Besides....

But when he sat down in his chair, this mood changed. There is a vast
difference between the view one takes of things when one is walking
briskly, and that which comes when one thinks the thing over coldly. As
he sat there, the wall of defence which he had built up slipped away
brick by brick, and there was the fact staring at him, without covering
or disguise.

It was no good arguing against himself. No amount of argument could
wipe away the truth. He had been afraid, and had shown it. And he had
shown it when, in a sense, he was representing the school, when Wrykyn
looked to him to help it keep its end up against the town.

The more he reflected, the more he saw how far-reaching were the
consequences of that failure in the hour of need. He had disgraced
himself. He had disgraced Seymour's. He had disgraced the school. He
was an outcast.

This mood, the natural reaction from his first glow of almost jaunty
self-righteousness, lasted till the lock-up bell rang, when it was
succeeded by another. This time he took a more reasonable view of the
affair. It occurred to him that there was a chance that his defection
had passed unnoticed. Nothing could make his case seem better in his
own eyes, but it might be that the thing would end there. The house
might not have lost credit.

An overwhelming curiosity seized him to find out how it had all ended.
The ten minutes of grace which followed the ringing of the lock-up bell
had passed. Drummond and the rest must be back by now.

He went down the passage to Drummond's study. Somebody was inside. He
could hear him.

He knocked at the door.

Drummond was sitting at the table reading. He looked up, and there was
a silence. Sheen's mouth felt dry. He could not think how to begin. He
noticed that Drummond's face was unmarked. Looking down, he saw that
one of the knuckles of the hand that held the book was swollen and cut.

"Drummond, I--"

Drummond lowered the book.

"Get out," he said. He spoke without heat, calmly, as if he were making
some conventional remark by way of starting a conversation.

"I only came to ask--"

"Get out," said Drummond again.

There was another pause. Drummond raised his book and went on reading.

Sheen left the room.

Outside he ran into Linton. Unlike Drummond, Linton bore marks of the
encounter. As in the case of the hero of Calverley's poem, one of his
speaking eyes was sable. The swelling of his lip was increased. There
was a deep red bruise on his forehead. In spite of these injuries,
however, he was cheerful. He was whistling when Sheen collided with
him.

"Sorry," said Linton, and went on into the study.

"Well," he said, "how are you feeling, Drummond? Lucky beggar, you
haven't got a mark. I wish I could duck like you. Well, we have fought
the good fight. Exit Albert--sweep him up. You gave him enough to last
him for the rest of the term. I couldn't tackle the brute. He's as
strong as a horse. My word, it was lucky you happened to come up.
Albert was making hay of us. Still, all's well that ends well. We have
smitten the Philistines this day. By the way--"

"What's up now?"

"Who was that chap with you when you came up?"

"Which chap?"

"I thought I saw some one."

"You shouldn't eat so much tea. You saw double."

"There wasn't anybody?"

"No," said Drummond.

"Not Sheen?"

"No," said Drummond, irritably. "How many more times do you want me to
say it?"

"All right," said Linton, "I only asked. I met him outside."

"Who?"

"Sheen."

"Oh!"

"You might be sociable."

"I know I might. But I want to read."

"Lucky man. Wish I could. I can hardly see. Well, good bye, then. I'm
off."

"Good," grunted Drummond. "You know your way out, don't you?"

Linton went back to his own study.

"It's all very well," he said to himself, "for Drummond to deny it, but
I'll swear I saw Sheen with him. So did Dunstable. I'll cut out and ask
him about it after prep. If he really was there, and cut off, something
ought to be done about it. The chap ought to be kicked. He's a disgrace
to the house."

Dunstable, questioned after preparation, refused to commit himself.

"I thought I saw somebody with Drummond," he said, "and I had a sort of
idea it was Sheen. Still, I was pretty busy at the time, and wasn't
paying much attention to anything, except that long, thin bargee with
the bowler. I wish those men would hit straight. It's beastly difficult
to guard a round-arm swing. My right ear feels like a cauliflower. Does
it look rum?"

"Beastly. But what about this? You can't swear to Sheen then?"

"No. Better give him the benefit of the doubt. What does Drummond say?
You ought to ask him."

"I have. He says he was alone."

"Well, that settles it. What an ass you are. If Drummond doesn't know,
who does?"

"I believe he's simply hushing it up."

"Well, let us hush it up, too. It's no good bothering about it. We
licked them all right."

"But it's such a beastly thing for the house."

"Then why the dickens do you want it to get about? Surely the best
thing you can do is to dry up and say nothing about it."

"But something ought to be done."

"What's the good of troubling about a man like Sheen? He never was any
good, and this doesn't make him very much worse. Besides, he'll
probably be sick enough on his own account. I know I should, if I'd
done it. And, anyway, we don't know that he did do it."

"I'm certain he did. I could swear it was him."

"Anyhow, for goodness' sake let the thing drop."

"All right. But I shall cut him."

"Well, that would be punishment enough for anybody, whatever he'd done.
Fancy existence without your bright conversation. It doesn't bear
thinking of. You do look a freak with that eye and that lump on your
forehead. You ought to wear a mask."

"That ear of yours," said Linton with satisfaction, "will be about
three times its ordinary size tomorrow. And it always was too large.
Good night."

On his way back to Seymour's Mason of Appleby's, who was standing at
his house gate imbibing fresh air, preparatory to going to bed,
accosted him.

"I say, Linton," he said, "--hullo, you look a wreck, don't you!--I
say, what's all this about your house?"

"What about my house?"

"Funking, and all that. Sheen, you know. Stanning has just been telling
me."

"Then he saw him, too!" exclaimed Linton, involuntarily.

"Oh, it's true, then? Did he really cut off like that? Stanning said he
did, but I wouldn't believe him at first. You aren't going? Good
night."

So the thing was out. Linton had not counted on Stanning having seen
what he and Dunstable had seen. It was impossible to hush it up now.
The scutcheon of Seymour's was definitely blotted. The name of the
house was being held up to scorn in Appleby's probably everywhere else
as well. It was a nuisance, thought Linton, but it could not be helped.
After all, it was a judgment on the house for harbouring such a
specimen as Sheen.

In Seymour's there was tumult and an impromptu indignation meeting.
Stanning had gone to work scientifically. From the moment that, ducking
under the guard of a sturdy town youth, he had caught sight of Sheen
retreating from the fray, he had grasped the fact that here,
ready-made, was his chance of working off his grudge against him. All
he had to do was to spread the news abroad, and the school would do the
rest. On his return from the town he had mentioned the facts of the
case to one or two of the more garrulous members of his house, and they
had passed it on to everybody they met during the interval in the
middle of preparation. By the end of preparation half the school knew
what had happened.

Seymour's was furious. The senior day-room to a man condemned Sheen.
The junior day-room was crimson in the face and incoherent. The
demeanour of a junior in moments of excitement generally lacks that
repose which marks the philosopher.

"He ought to be kicked," shrilled Renford.

"We shall get rotted by those kids in Dexter's," moaned Harvey.

"Disgracing the house!" thundered Watson.

"Let's go and chuck things at his door," suggested Renford.

A move was made to the passage in which Sheen's study was situated,
and, with divers groans and howls, the junior day-room hove football
boots and cricket stumps at the door.

The success of the meeting, however, was entirely neutralised by the
fact that in the same passage stood the study of Rigby, the head of the
house. Also Rigby was trying at the moment to turn into idiomatic Greek
verse the words: "The Days of Peace and Slumberous calm have fled", and
this corroboration of the statement annoyed him to the extent of
causing him to dash out and sow lines among the revellers like some
monarch scattering largesse. The junior day-room retired to its lair to
inveigh against the brutal ways of those in authority, and begin
working off the commission it had received.

The howls in the passage were the first official intimation Sheen had
received that his shortcomings were public property. The word "Funk!"
shouted through his keyhole, had not unnaturally given him an inkling
as to the state of affairs.

So Drummond had given him away, he thought. Probably he had told Linton
the whole story the moment after he, Sheen, had met the latter at the
door of the study. And perhaps he was now telling it to the rest of the
house. Of all the mixed sensations from which he suffered as he went to
his dormitory that night, one of resentment against Drummond was the
keenest.

Sheen was in the fourth dormitory, where the majority of the day-room
slept. He was in the position of a sort of extra house prefect, as far
as the dormitory was concerned. It was a large dormitory, and Mr
Seymour had fancied that it might, perhaps, be something of a handful
for a single prefect. As a matter of fact, however, Drummond, who was
in charge, had shown early in the term that he was more than capable of
managing the place single handed. He was popular and determined. The
dormitory was orderly, partly because it liked him, principally because
it had to be.

He had an opportunity of exhibiting his powers of control that night.
When Sheen came in, the room was full. Drummond was in bed, reading his
novel. The other ornaments of the dormitory were in various stages of
undress.

As Sheen appeared, a sudden hissing broke out from the farther corner
of the room. Sheen flushed, and walked to his bed. The hissing
increased in volume and richness.

"Shut up that noise," said Drummond, without looking up from his book.

The hissing diminished. Only two or three of the more reckless kept it
up.

Drummond looked across the room at them.

"Stop that noise, and get into bed," he said quietly.

The hissing ceased. He went on with his book again.

Silence reigned in dormitory four.

Content of CHAPTER V - THE WHITE FEATHER (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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