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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter VIII - A NAVAL BATTLE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
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White Feather - Chapter VIII - A NAVAL BATTLE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES Post by :sherylk Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3095

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White Feather - Chapter VIII - A NAVAL BATTLE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

CHAPTER VIII - A NAVAL BATTLE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES


What a go is life!

Let us examine the case of Jackson, of Dexter's. O'Hara, who had left
Dexter's at the end of the summer term, had once complained to Clowes
of the manner in which his house-master treated him, and Clowes had
remarked in his melancholy way that it was nothing less than a breach
of the law that Dexter should persist in leading a fellow a dog's life
without a dog licence for him.

That was precisely how Jackson felt on the subject.

Things became definitely unbearable on the day after Sheen's interview
with Mr Joe Bevan.

'Twas morn--to begin at the beginning--and Jackson sprang from his
little cot to embark on the labours of the day. Unfortunately, he
sprang ten minutes too late, and came down to breakfast about the time
of the second slice of bread and marmalade. Result, a hundred lines.
Proceeding to school, he had again fallen foul of his house-master--in
whose form he was--over a matter of unprepared Livy. As a matter of
fact, Jackson _had prepared the Livy. Or, rather, he had not
absolutely _prepared it; but he had meant to. But it was Mr
Templar's preparation, and Mr Templar was short-sighted. Any one will
understand, therefore, that it would have been simply chucking away the
gifts of Providence if he had not gone on with the novel which he had
been reading up till the last moment before prep-time, and had brought
along with him accidentally, as it were. It was a book called _A
Spoiler of Men_, by Richard Marsh, and there was a repulsive crime on
nearly every page. It was Hot Stuff. Much better than Livy....

Lunch Score--Two hundred lines.

During lunch he had the misfortune to upset a glass of water. Pure
accident, of course, but there it was, don't you know, all over the
table.

Mr Dexter had called him--

(a) clumsy;
(b) a pig;

and had given him

(1) Advice--"You had better be careful, Jackson".
(2) A present--"Two hundred lines, Jackson".

On the match being resumed at two o'clock, with four hundred lines on
the score-sheet, he had played a fine, free game during afternoon
school, and Mr Dexter, who objected to fine, free games--or, indeed,
any games--during school hours, had increased the total to six hundred,
when stumps were drawn for the day.

So on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon, when he should have been out
in the field cheering the house-team on to victory against the School
House, Jackson sat in the junior day-room at Dexter's copying out
portions of Virgil, Aeneid Two.

To him, later on in the afternoon, when he had finished half his task,
entered Painter, with the news that Dexter's had taken thirty points
off the School House just after half-time.

"Mopped them up," said the terse and epigrammatic Painter. "Made rings
round them. Haven't you finished yet? Well, chuck it, and come out."

"What's on?" asked Jackson.

"We're going to have a boat race."

"Pile it on."

"We are, really. Fact. Some of these School House kids are awfully sick
about the match, and challenged us. That chap Tomlin thinks he can row.

"He can't row for nuts," said Jackson. "He doesn't know which end of
the oar to shove into the water. I've seen cats that could row better
than Tomlin."

"That's what I told him. At least, I said he couldn't row for toffee,
so he said all right, I bet I can lick you, and I said I betted he
couldn't, and he said all right, then, let's try, and then the other
chaps wanted to join in, so we made an inter-house thing of it. And I
want you to come and stroke us."

Jackson hesitated. Mr Dexter, setting the lines on Friday, had
certainly said that they were to be shown up "tomorrow evening." He had
said it very loud and clear. Still, in a case like this....After all,
by helping to beat the School House on the river he would be giving
Dexter's a leg-up. And what more could the man want?

"Right ho," said Jackson.

Down at the School boat-house the enemy were already afloat when
Painter and Jackson arrived.

"Buck up," cried the School House crew.

Dexter's embarked, five strong. There was room for two on each seat.
Jackson shared the post of stroke with Painter. Crowle steered.

"Ready?" asked Tomlin from the other boat.

"Half a sec.," said Jackson. "What's the course?"

"Oh, don't you know _that yet? Up to the town, round the island
just below the bridge,--the island with the croquet ground on it,
_you know--and back again here. Ready?"

"In a jiffy. Look here, Crowle, remember about steering. You pull the
right line if you want to go to the right and the other if you want to
go to the left."

"All right," said the injured Crowle. "As if I didn't know that."

"Thought I'd mention it. It's your fault. Nobody could tell by looking
at you that you knew anything except how to eat. Ready, you chaps?"

"When I say 'Three,'" said Tomlin.

It was a subject of heated discussion between the crews for weeks
afterwards whether Dexter's boat did or did not go off at the word
"Two." Opinions were divided on the topic. But it was certain that
Jackson and his men led from the start. Pulling a good, splashing
stroke which had drenched Crowle to the skin in the first thirty yards,
Dexter's boat crept slowly ahead. By the time the island was reached,
it led by a length. Encouraged by success, the leaders redoubled their
already energetic efforts. Crowle sat in a shower-bath. He was even
moved to speech about it.

"When you've finished," said Crowle.

Jackson, intent upon repartee, caught a crab, and the School House drew
level again. The two boats passed the island abreast.

Just here occurred one of those unfortunate incidents. Both crews had
quickened their stroke until the boats had practically been converted
into submarines, and the rival coxswains were observing bitterly to
space that this was jolly well the last time they ever let themselves
in for this sort of thing, when round the island there hove in sight a
flotilla of boats, directly in the path of the racers.

There were three of them, and not even the spray which played over them
like a fountain could prevent Crowle from seeing that they were manned
by Judies. Even on the river these outcasts wore their mortar-boards.

"Look out!" shrieked Crowle, pulling hard on his right line. "Stop
rowing, you chaps. We shall be into them."

At the same moment the School House oarsmen ceased pulling. The two
boats came to a halt a few yards from the enemy.

"What's up?" panted Jackson, crimson from his exertions. "Hullo, it's
the Judies!"

Tomlin was parleying with the foe.

"Why the dickens can't you keep out of the way? Spoiling our race. Wait
till we get ashore."

But the Judies, it seemed, were not prepared to wait even for that
short space of time. A miscreant, larger than the common run of Judy,
made a brief, but popular, address to his men.

"Splash them!" he said.

Instantly, amid shrieks of approval, oars began to strike the water,
and the water began to fly over the Wrykyn boats, which were now
surrounded. The latter were not slow to join battle with the same
weapons. Homeric laughter came from the bridge above. The town bridge
was a sort of loafers' club, to which the entrance fee was a screw of
tobacco, and the subscription an occasional remark upon the weather.
Here gathered together day by day that section of the populace which
resented it when they "asked for employment, and only got work
instead". From morn till eve they lounged against the balustrades,
surveying nature, and hoping it would be kind enough to give them some
excitement that day. An occasional dog-fight found in them an eager
audience. No runaway horse ever bored them. A broken-down motor-car was
meat and drink to them. They had an appetite for every spectacle.

When, therefore, the water began to fly from boat to boat, kind-hearted
men fetched their friends from neighbouring public houses and craned
with them over the parapet, observing the sport and commenting thereon.
It was these comments that attracted Mr Dexter's attention. When,
cycling across the bridge, he found the south side of it entirely
congested, and heard raucous voices urging certain unseen "little 'uns"
now to "go it" and anon to "vote for Pedder", his curiosity was
aroused. He dismounted and pushed his way through the crowd until he
got a clear view of what was happening below.

He was just in time to see the most stirring incident of the fight. The
biggest of the Judy boats had been propelled by the current nearer and
nearer to the Dexter Argo. No sooner was it within distance than
Jackson, dropping his oar, grasped the side and pulled it towards him.
The two boats crashed together and rocked violently as the crews rose
from their seats and grappled with one another. A hurricane of laughter
and applause went up from the crowd upon the bridge.

The next moment both boats were bottom upwards and drifting sluggishly
down towards the island, while the crews swam like rats for the other
boats.

Every Wrykinian had to learn to swim before he was allowed on the
river; so that the peril of Jackson and his crew was not extreme: and
it was soon speedily evident that swimming was also part of the Judy
curriculum, for the shipwrecked ones were soon climbing drippingly on
board the surviving ships, where they sat and made puddles, and
shrieked defiance at their antagonists.

This was accepted by both sides as the end of the fight, and the
combatants parted without further hostilities, each fleet believing
that the victory was with them.

And Mr Dexter, mounting his bicycle again, rode home to tell the
headmaster.

That evening, after preparation, the headmaster held a reception. Among
distinguished visitors were Jackson, Painter, Tomlin, Crowle, and six
others.

On the Monday morning the headmaster issued a manifesto to the school
after prayers. He had, he said, for some time entertained the idea of
placing the town out of bounds. He would do so now. No boy, unless he
was a prefect, would be allowed till further notice to cross the town
bridge. As regarded the river, for the future boating Wrykinians must
confine their attentions to the lower river. Nobody must take a boat
up-stream. The school boatman would have strict orders to see that this
rule was rigidly enforced. Any breach of these bounds would, he
concluded, be punished with the utmost severity.

The headmaster of Wrykyn was not a hasty man. He thought before he put
his foot down. But when he did, he put it down heavily.

Sheen heard the ultimatum with dismay. He was a law-abiding person, and
here he was, faced with a dilemma that made it necessary for him to
choose between breaking school rules of the most important kind, or
pulling down all the castles he had built in the air before the mortar
had had time to harden between their stones.

He wished he could talk it over with somebody. But he had nobody with
whom he could talk over anything. He must think it out for himself.

He spent the rest of the day thinking it out, and by nightfall he had
come to his decision.

Even at the expense of breaking bounds and the risk of being caught at
it, he must keep his appointment with Joe Bevan. It would mean going to
the town landing-stage for a boat, thereby breaking bounds twice over.

But it would have to be done.

Content of CHAPTER VIII - A NAVAL BATTLE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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