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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter VI - ALBERT REDIVIVUS
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White Feather - Chapter VI - ALBERT REDIVIVUS Post by :bruns Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2944

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White Feather - Chapter VI - ALBERT REDIVIVUS

CHAPTER VI - ALBERT REDIVIVUS


By murdering in cold blood a large and respected family, and afterwards
depositing their bodies in a reservoir, one may gain, we are told, much
unpopularity in the neighbourhood of one's crime; while robbing a
church will get one cordially disliked especially by the vicar. But, to
be really an outcast, to feel that one has no friend in the world, one
must break an important public-school commandment.

Sheen had always been something of a hermit. In his most sociable
moments he had never had more than one or two friends; but he had never
before known what it meant to be completely isolated. It was like
living in a world of ghosts, or, rather, like being a ghost in a living
world. That disagreeable experience of being looked through, as if one
were invisible, comes to the average person, it may be half a dozen
times in his life. Sheen had to put up with it a hundred times a day.
People who were talking to one another stopped when he appeared and
waited until he had passed on before beginning again. Altogether, he
was made to feel that he had done for himself, that, as far as the life
of the school was concerned, he did not exist.

There had been some talk, particularly in the senior day-room, of more
active measures. It was thought that nothing less than a court-martial
could meet the case. But the house prefects had been against it. Sheen
was in the sixth, and, however monstrous and unspeakable might have
been his acts, it would hardly do to treat him as if he were a junior.
And the scheme had been definitely discouraged by Drummond, who had
stated, without wrapping the gist of his remarks in elusive phrases,
that in the event of a court-martial being held he would interview the
president of the same and knock his head off. So Seymour's had fallen
back on the punishment which from their earliest beginnings the public
schools have meted out to their criminals. They had cut Sheen dead.

In a way Sheen benefited from this excommunication. Now that he could
not even play fives, for want of an opponent, there was nothing left
for him to do but work. Fortunately, he had an object. The Gotford
would be coming on in a few weeks, and the more work he could do for
it, the better. Though Stanning was the only one of his rivals whom he
feared, and though _he was known to be taking very little trouble
over the matter, it was best to run as few risks as possible. Stanning
was one of those people who produce great results in their work without
seeming to do anything for them.

So Sheen shut himself up in his study and ground grimly away at his
books, and for exercise went for cross-country walks. It was a
monotonous kind of existence. For the space of a week the only
Wrykinian who spoke a single word to him was Bruce, the son of the
Conservative candidate for Wrykyn: and Bruce's conversation had been
limited to two remarks. He had said, "You might play that again, will
you?" and, later, "Thanks". He had come into the music-room while Sheen
was practising one afternoon, and had sat down, without speaking, on a
chair by the door. When Sheen had played for the second time the piece
which had won his approval, Bruce thanked him and left the room. As the
solitary break in the monotony of the week, Sheen remembered the
incident rather vividly.

Since the great rout of Albert and his minions outside Cook's, things,
as far as the seniors were concerned, had been quiet between school and
town. Linton and Dunstable had gone to and from Cook's two days in
succession without let or hindrance. It was generally believed that,
owing to the unerring way in which he had put his head in front of
Drummond's left on that memorable occasion, the scarlet-haired one was
at present dry-docked for repairs. The story in the school--it had
grown with the days--was that Drummond had laid the enemy out on the
pavement with a sickening crash, and that he had still been there at,
so to speak, the close of play. As a matter of fact, Albert was in
excellent shape, and only an unfortunate previous engagement prevented
him from ranging the streets near Cook's as before. Sir William Bruce
was addressing a meeting in another part of the town, and Albert
thought it his duty to be on hand to boo.

In the junior portion of the school the feud with the town was brisk.
Mention has been made of a certain St Jude's, between which seat of
learning and the fags of Dexter's and the School House there was a
spirited vendetta.

Jackson, of Dexter's was one of the pillars of the movement. Jackson
was

a calm-brow'd lad,
Yet mad, at moments, as a hatter,

and he derived a great deal of pleasure from warring against St Jude's.
It helped him to enjoy his meals. He slept the better for it. After a
little turn up with a Judy he was fuller of that spirit of manly
fortitude and forbearance so necessary to those whom Fate brought
frequently into contact with Mr Dexter. The Judies wore mortar-boards,
and it was an enjoyable pastime sending these spinning into space
during one of the usual _rencontres in the High Street. From the
fact that he and his friends were invariably outnumbered, there was a
sporting element in these affairs, though occasionally this inferiority
of numbers was the cause of his executing a scientific retreat with the
enemy harassing his men up to the very edge of the town. This had
happened on the last occasion. There had been casualties. No fewer than
six house-caps had fallen into the enemy's hands, and he himself had
been tripped up and rolled in a puddle.

He burned to avenge this disaster.

"Corning down to Cook's?" he said to his ally, Painter. It was just a
week since the Sheen episode.

"All right," said Painter.

"Suppose we go by the High Street," suggested Jackson, casually.

"Then we'd better get a few more chaps," said Painter.

A few more chaps were collected, and the party, numbering eight, set
off for the town. There were present such stalwarts as Borwick and
Crowle, both of Dexter's, and Tomlin, of the School House, a useful man
to have by you in an emergency. It was Tomlin who, on one occasion,
attacked by two terrific champions of St Jude's in a narrow passage,
had vanquished them both, and sent their mortar-boards miles into the
empyrean, so that they were never the same mortar-boards again, but
wore ever after a bruised and draggled look.

The expedition passed down the High Street without adventure, until, by
common consent, it stopped at the lofty wall which bounded the
playground of St Jude's.

From the other side of the wall came sounds of revelry, shrill
squealings and shoutings. The Judies were disporting themselves at one
of their weird games. It was known that they played touch-last, and
Scandal said that another of their favourite recreations was marbles.
The juniors at Wrykyn believed that it was to hide these excesses from
the gaze of the public that the playground wall had been made so high.
Eye-witnesses, who had peeped through the door in the said wall,
reported that what the Judies seemed to do mostly was to chase one
another about the playground, shrieking at the top of their voices.
But, they added, this was probably a mere ruse to divert suspicion.

They had almost certainly got the marbles in their pockets all the
time.

The expedition stopped, and looked itself in the face.

"How about buzzing something at them?" said Jackson earnestly.

"You can get oranges over the road," said Tomlin in his helpful way.

Jackson vanished into the shop indicated, and reappeared a few moments
later with a brown paper bag.

"It seems a beastly waste," suggested the economical Painter.

"That's all right," said Jackson, "they're all bad. The man thought I
was rotting him when I asked if he'd got any bad oranges, but I got
them at last. Give us a leg up, some one."

Willing hands urged him to the top of the wall. He drew out a green
orange, and threw it.

There was a sudden silence on the other side of the wall. Then a howl
of wrath went up to the heavens. Jackson rapidly emptied his bag.

"Got him!" he exclaimed, as the last orange sped on its way. "Look out,
they're coming!"

The expedition had begun to move off with quiet dignity, when from the
doorway in the wall there poured forth a stream of mortar-boarded
warriors, shrieking defiance. The expedition advanced to meet them.

As usual, the Judies had the advantage in numbers, and, filled to the
brim with righteous indignation, they were proceeding to make things
uncommonly warm for the invaders--Painter had lost his cap, and Tomlin
three waistcoat buttons--when the eye of Jackson, roving up and down
the street, was caught by a Seymour's cap. He was about to shout for
assistance when he perceived that the newcomer was Sheen, and
refrained. It was no use, he felt, asking Sheen for help.

But just as Sheen arrived and the ranks of the expedition were
beginning to give way before the strenuous onslaught of the Judies, the
latter, almost with one accord, turned and bolted into their playground
again. Looking round, Tomlin, that first of generals, saw the reason,
and uttered a warning.

A mutual foe had appeared. From a passage on the left of the road there
had debouched on to the field of action Albert himself and two of his
band.

The expedition flew without false shame. It is to be doubted whether
one of Albert's calibre would have troubled to attack such small game,
but it was the firm opinion of the Wrykyn fags and the Judies that he
and his men were to be avoided.

The newcomers did not pursue them. They contented themselves with
shouting at them. One of the band threw a stone.

Then they caught sight of Sheen.

Albert said, "Oo er!" and advanced at the double. His companions
followed him.

Sheen watched them come, and backed against the wall. His heart was
thumping furiously. He was in for it now, he felt. He had come down to
the town with this very situation in his mind. A wild idea of doing
something to restore his self-respect and his credit in the eyes of the
house had driven him to the High Street. But now that the crisis had
actually arrived, he would have given much to have been in his study
again.

Albert was quite close now. Sheen could see the marks which had
resulted from his interview with Drummond. With all his force Sheen hit
out, and experienced a curious thrill as his fist went home. It was a
poor blow from a scientific point of view, but Sheen's fives had given
him muscle, and it checked Albert. That youth, however, recovered
rapidly, and the next few moments passed in a whirl for Sheen. He
received a stinging blow on his left ear, and another which deprived
him of his whole stock of breath, and then he was on the ground,
conscious only of a wish to stay there for ever.

Content of CHAPTER VI - ALBERT REDIVIVUS (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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