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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter XXIII - A SURPRISE FOR SEYMOUR'S
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White Feather - Chapter XXIII - A SURPRISE FOR SEYMOUR'S Post by :rfwarrior Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2359

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White Feather - Chapter XXIII - A SURPRISE FOR SEYMOUR'S

CHAPTER XXIII - A SURPRISE FOR SEYMOUR'S


Seymour's house took in one copy of the _Sportsman daily. On the
morning after the Aldershot competition Linton met the paper-boy at the
door on his return from the fives courts, where he had been playing a
couple of before-breakfast games with Dunstable. He relieved him of the
house copy, and opened it to see how the Wrykyn pair had performed in
the gymnastics. He did not expect anything great, having a rooted
contempt for both experts, who were small and, except in the gymnasium,
obscure. Indeed, he had gone so far on the previous day as to express a
hope that Biddle, the more despicable of the two, would fall off the
horizontal bar and break his neck. Still he might as well see where
they had come out. After all, with all their faults, they were human
beings like himself, and Wrykinians.

The competition was reported in the Boxing column. The first thing that
caught his eye was the name of the school among the headlines.
"Honours", said the headline, "for St Paul's, Harrow, and Wrykyn".

"Hullo," said Linton, "what's all this?"

Then the thing came on him with nothing to soften the shock. He had
folded the paper, and the last words on the half uppermost were,
"_Final. Sheen beat Peteiro_".

Linton had often read novels in which some important document "swam
before the eyes" of the hero or the heroine; but he had never
understood the full meaning of the phrase until he read those words,
"Sheen beat Peteiro".

There was no mistake about it. There the thing was. It was impossible
for the _Sportsman to have been hoaxed. No, the incredible,
outrageous fact must be faced. Sheen had been down to Aldershot and won
a silver medal! Sheen! _Sheen!! Sheen who had--who was--well,
who, in a word, was SHEEN!!!

Linton read on like one in a dream.

"The Light-Weights fell," said the writer, "to a newcomer Sheen, of
Wrykyn" (Sheen!), "a clever youngster with a strong defence and a
beautiful straight left, doubtless the result of tuition from the
middle-weight ex-champion, Joe Bevan, who was in his corner for the
final bout. None of his opponents gave him much trouble except Peteiro
of Ripton, whom he met in the final. A very game and determined fight
was seen when these two met, but Sheen's skill and condition discounted
the rushing tactics of his adversary, and in the last minute of the
third round the referee stopped the encounter." (Game and determined!
Sheen!!) "Sympathy was freely expressed for Peteiro, who has thus been
runner-up two years in succession. He, however, met a better man, and
paid the penalty. The admirable pluck with which Sheen bore his
punishment and gradually wore his man down made his victory the most
popular of the day's programme."

_Well!_

Details of the fighting described Sheen as "cutting out the work",
"popping in several nice lefts", "swinging his right for the point",
and executing numerous other incredible manoeuvres.

_Sheen!_

You caught the name correctly? SHEEN, I'll trouble you.

Linton stared blankly across the school grounds. Then he burst into a
sudden yell of laughter.

On that very morning the senior day-room was going to court-martial
Sheen for disgracing the house. The resolution had been passed on the
previous afternoon, probably just as he was putting the finishing
touches to the "most popular victory of the day's programme". "This,"
said Linton, "is rich."

He grubbed a little hole in one of Mr Seymour's flower-beds, and laid
the _Sportsman to rest in it. The news would be about the school
at nine o'clock, but if he could keep it from the senior day-room till
the brief interval between breakfast and school, all would be well, and
he would have the pure pleasure of seeing that backbone of the house
make a complete ass of itself. A thought struck him. He unearthed the
_Sportsman_, and put it in his pocket.

He strolled into the senior day-room after breakfast.

"Any one seen the _Sporter this morning?" he inquired.

No one had seen it.

"The thing hasn't come," said some one.

"Good!" said Linton to himself.

At this point Stanning strolled into the room. "I'm a witness," he
said, in answer to Linton's look of inquiry. "We're doing this thing in
style. I depose that I saw the prisoner cutting off on the--whatever
day it was, when he ought to have been saving our lives from the fury
of the mob. Hadn't somebody better bring the prisoner into the dock?"

"I'll go," said Linton promptly. "I may be a little time, but don't get
worried. I'll bring him all right."

He went upstairs to Sheen's study, feeling like an _impresario_
about to produce a new play which is sure to create a sensation.

Sheen was in. There was a ridge of purple under his left eye, but he
was otherwise intact.

"'Gratulate you, Sheen," said Linton.

For an instant Sheen hesitated. He had rehearsed this kind of scene in
his mind, and sometimes he saw himself playing a genial, forgiving,
let's-say-no-more-about-it-we-all-make-mistakes-but-in-future! role,
sometimes being cold haughty, and distant, and repelling friendly
advances with icy disdain. If anybody but Linton had been the first to
congratulate him he might have decided on this second line of action.
But he liked Linton, and wanted to be friendly with him.

"Thanks," he said.

Linton sat down on the table and burst into a torrent of speech.

"You _are a man! What did you want to do it for? Where the
dickens did you learn to box? And why on earth, if you can win silver
medals at Aldershot, didn't you box for the house and smash up that
sidey ass Stanning? I say, look here, I suppose we haven't been making
idiots of ourselves all the time, have we?"

"I shouldn't wonder," said Sheen. "How?"

"I mean, you did--What I mean to say is--Oh, hang it, _you know!
You did cut off when we had that row in the town, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Sheen, "I did."

With that medal in his pocket it cost him no effort to make the
confession.

"I'm glad of that. I mean, I'm glad we haven't been such fools as we
might have been. You see, we only had Stanning's word to go on."

Sheen started.

"Stanning!" he said. "What do you mean?"

"He was the chap who started the story. Didn't you know? He told
everybody."

"I thought it was Drummond," said Sheen blankly. "You remember meeting
me outside his study the day after? I thought he told you then."

"Drummond! Not a bit of it. He swore you hadn't been with him at all.
He was as sick as anything when I said I thought I'd seen you with
him."

"I--" Sheen stopped. "I wish I'd known," he concluded. Then, after a
pause, "So it was Stanning!"

"Yes,--conceited beast. Oh. I say."

"Um?"

"I see it all now. Joe Bevan taught you to box."

"Yes."

"Then that's how you came to be at the 'Blue Boar' that day. He's the
Bevan who runs it."

"That's his brother. He's got a gymnasium up at the top. I used to go
there every day."

"But I say, Great Scott, what are you going to do about that?"

"How do you mean?"

"Why, Spence is sure to ask you who taught you to box. He must know you
didn't learn with the instructor. Then it'll all come out, and you'll
get dropped on for going up the river and going to the pub."

"Perhaps he won't ask," said Sheen.

"Hope not. Oh, by the way--"

"What's up?"

"Just remembered what I came up for. It's an awful rag. The senior
day-room are going to court-martial you."

"Court-martial me!"

"For funking. They don't know about Aldershot, not a word. I bagged the
_Sportsman early, and hid it. They are going to get the surprise
of their lifetime. I said I'd come up and fetch you."

"I shan't go," said Sheen.

Linton looked alarmed.

"Oh, but I say, you must. Don't spoil the thing. Can't you see what a
rag it'll be?"

"I'm not going to sweat downstairs for the benefit of the senior
day-room."

"I say," said Linton, "Stanning's there."

"What!"

"He's a witness," said Linton, grinning.

Sheen got up.

"Come on," he said.

Linton came on.

* * * * *

Down in the senior day-room the court was patiently awaiting the
prisoner. Eager anticipation was stamped on its expressive features.

"Beastly time he is," said Clayton. Clayton was acting as president.

"We shall have to buck up," said Stanning. "Hullo, here he is at last.
Come in, Linton."

"I was going to," said Linton, "but thanks all the same. Come along,
Sheen."

"Shut that door, Linton," said Stanning from his seat on the table.

"All right, Stanning," said Linton. "Anything to oblige. Shall I bring
up a chair for you to rest your feet on?"

"Forge ahead, Clayton," said Stanning to the president.

The president opened the court-martial in unofficial phraseology.

"Look here, Sheen," he said, "we've come to the conclusion that this
has got a bit too thick."

"You mustn't talk in that chatty way, Clayton," interrupted Linton.
"'Prisoner at the bar's' the right expression to use. Why don't you let
somebody else have a look in? You're the rottenest president of a
court-martial I ever saw."

"Don't rag, Linton," said Clayton, with an austere frown. "This is
serious."

"Glad you told me," said Linton. "Go on."

"Can't you sit down, Linton!" said Stanning.

"I was only waiting for leave. Thanks. You were saying something,
Clayton. It sounded pretty average rot, but you'd better unburden your
soul."

The president resumed.

"We want to know if you've anything to say--"

"You don't give him a chance," said Linton. "You bag the conversation
so."

"--about disgracing the house."

"By getting the Gotford, you know, Sheen," explained Linton. "Clayton
thinks that work's a bad habit, and ought to be discouraged."

Clayton glared, and looked at Stanning. He was not equal to the task of
tackling Linton himself.

Stanning interposed.

"Don't rot, Linton. We haven't much time as it is."

"Sorry," said Linton.

"You've let the house down awfully," said Clayton.

"Yes?" said Sheen.

Linton took the paper out of his pocket, and smoothed it out.

"Seen the _Sporter_?" he asked casually. His neighbour grabbed at
it.

"I thought it hadn't come," he said.

"Good account of Aldershot," said Linton.

He leaned back in his chair as two or three of the senior day-room
collected round the _Sportsman_.

"Hullo! We won the gym.!"

"Rot! Let's have a look!"

This tremendous announcement quite eclipsed the court-martial as an
object of popular interest. The senior day-room surged round the holder
of the paper.

"Give us a chance," he protested.

"We can't have. Where is it? Biddle and Smith are simply hopeless. How
the dickens can they have got the shield?"

"What a goat you are!" said a voice reproachfully to the possessor of
the paper. "Look at this. It says Cheltenham got it. And here we
are--seventeenth. Fat lot of shield we've won."

"Then what the deuce does this mean? 'Honours for St Paul's, Harrow,
and Wrykyn'."

"Perhaps it refers to the boxing," suggested Linton.

"But we didn't send any one up. Look here. Harrow won the Heavies. St
Paul's got the Middles. _Hullo!_"

"Great Scott!" said the senior day-room.

There was a blank silence. Linton whistled softly to himself.

The gaze of the senior day-room was concentrated on that ridge of
purple beneath Sheen's left eye.

Clayton was the first to speak. For some time he had been waiting for
sufficient silence to enable him to proceed with his presidential
duties. He addressed himself to Sheen.

"Look here, Sheen," he said, "we want to know what you've got to say
for yourself. You go disgracing the house--"

The stunned senior day-room were roused to speech.

"Oh, chuck it, Clayton."

"Don't be a fool, Clayton."

"Silly idiot!"

Clayton looked round in pained surprise at this sudden withdrawal of
popular support.

"You'd better be polite to Sheen," said Linton; "he won the
Light-Weights at Aldershot yesterday."

The silence once more became strained.

"Well," said Sheen, "weren't you going to court-martial me, or
something? Clayton, weren't you saying something?"

Clayton started. He had not yet grasped the situation entirely; but he
realised dimly that by some miracle Sheen had turned in an instant into
a most formidable person.

"Er--no," he said. "No, nothing."

"The thing seems to have fallen through, Sheen," said Linton. "Great
pity. Started so well, too. Clayton always makes a mess of things."

"Then I'd just like to say one thing," said Sheen.

Respectful attention from the senior day-room.

"I only want to know why you can't manage things of this sort by
yourselves, without dragging in men from other houses."

"Especially men like Stanning," said Linton. "The same thing occurred
to me. It's lucky Drummond wasn't here. Remember the last time, you
chaps?"

The chaps did. Stanning became an object of critical interest. After
all, who _was Stanning? What right had he to come and sit on
tables in Seymour's and interfere with the affairs of the house?

The allusion to "last time" was lost upon Sheen, but he saw that it had
not improved Stanning's position with the spectators.

He opened the door.

"Good bye, Stanning," he said.

"If I hadn't hurt my wrist--" Stanning began.

"Hurt your wrist!" said Sheen. "You got a bad attack of Peteiro. That
was what was the matter with you."

"You think that every one's a funk like yourself," said Stanning.

"Pity they aren't," said Linton; "we should do rather well down at
Aldershot. And he wasn't such a terror after all, Sheen, was he? You
beat him in two and a half rounds, didn't you? Think what Stanning
might have done if only he hadn't sprained his poor wrist just in time.

"Look here, Linton--"

"Some are born with sprained wrists," continued the speaker, "some
achieve sprained wrists--like Stanning--"

Stanning took a step towards him.

"Don't forget you've a sprained wrist," said Linton.

"Come on, Stanning," said Sheen, who was still holding the door open,
"you'll be much more comfortable in your own house. I'll show you out."

"I suppose," said Stanning in the passage, "you think you've scored off
me."

"That," said Sheen pleasantly, "is rather the idea. Good bye."

Content of CHAPTER XXIII - A SURPRISE FOR SEYMOUR'S (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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