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Title: The Cock-House at Fellsgarth
Author: Reed, Talbot Baines, 1852-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cock-House at Fellsgarth" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



The Cock-House at Fellsgarth

By Talbot Baines Reed
________________________________________________________________________
For some reason this book was quite hard to convert to e-Book, so that
if any error is detected by a reader I would be grateful if I could be
told, either by email, or by using our Bulletin Board.

This is another story set in a nineteenth century boy's boarding school,
and is quite similar to "The Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's".

At the time it was greatly acclaimed, and said to be very like a real
boarding school, but things must have changed because I was at one such
school only fifty years after this book was written, and I can't imagine
any of it happening at my school. On the other hand I was also at a
boarding school for boys aged 8 to 13, which was much more like the
school in this story.  As I say, things must have changed.

It takes about ten hours to play as an audiobook.  There are a number of
quite tense incidents, particularly when a party of boys decide to walk
up a nearby mountain, and the weather turns very nasty.  This is in
chapters 17 to 19.  But there are many other well-described incidents,
so do read the book, remembering that boys' slang has changed greatly in
the past hundred years.
________________________________________________________________________
THE COCK-HOUSE AT FELLSGARTH

BY TALBOT BAINES REED



CHAPTER ONE.

GREEN AND BLUE.

First-night at Fellsgarth was always a festive occasion.  The holidays
were over, and school had not yet begun.  All day long, from remote
quarters, fellows had been converging on the dear old place; and here
they were at last, shoulder to shoulder, delighted to find themselves
back in the old haunts.  The glorious memories of the summer holidays
were common property.  So was not a little of the pocket-money.  So, by
rule immemorial, were the contents of the hampers.  And so, as they
discovered to their cost, were the luckless new boys who had to-day
tumbled for the first time headlong into the whirlpool of public school
life.

Does some one tell me he never heard of Fellsgarth?  I am surprised.
Where can you have been brought up that you have never heard of the
venerable ivy-clad pile with its watch-tower and two wings, planted
there, where the rivers Shale and Shargle mingle their waters, a mile or
more above Hawkswater?  My dear sir, Fellsgarth stood there before the
days when Henry the Eighth, (of whom you may have possibly heard in the
history books) abolished the monasteries and, some wicked people do say,
annexed their contents.

There is very little of the old place standing now.  A piece of the wall
in the head-master's garden and the lower buttresses of the watch-tower,
that is all.  The present building is comparatively modern; that is to
say, it is no older than the end of the Civil Wars, when some lucky
adherent to the winning side built it up as a manor-house and disfigured
the tower with those four pepper-castors at the corners.  Successive
owners have tinkered the place since then, but they cannot quite spoil
it.  Who can spoil red brick and ivy, in such a situation?

Not know Fellsgarth!  Have you never been on Hawkswater then, with its
lonely island, and the grey screes swooping down into the clear water?
And have you never seen Hawk's Pike, which frowns in on the fellows
through the dormitory window?  I don't ask if you have been up it.  Only
three persons, to my knowledge (guides and natives of course excepted),
have done that.  Yorke was one, Mr Stratton was another, and the
other--but that's to be part of my story.

First-night, as I have said, was a specially "go-as-you-please" occasion
at the school.  Masters, having called over their roll, disappeared into
their own quarters and discreetly heard nothing.  Dames, having received
and unpacked the "night-bags," retired elsewhere to wrestle with the big
luggage.  The cooks, having passably satisfied the cravings of two
hundred and fifty hungry souls, and having removed out of harm's way the
most perishable of the crockery, shrugged their shoulders and shut
themselves into the kitchens, listening to the noise and speculating on
the joys of the coming term.

What a noise it was!  Niagara after the rains, or an express train in a
tunnel, or the north wind in a gale against the Hawk's Back might be
able to beat it.  But then Fellsgarth was not competing; each of the
fellows was merely chatting pleasantly to his neighbours.  It was hardly
a fair trial.  And yet it was not bad for the School.  When Dangle, who
owned the longest ear in the school, could not hear a word which
Brinkman, who owned the loudest voice, shouted into it, it spoke
somewhat for what Fellsgarth might do in the way of noise if it tried.

The only two persons who were not actively contributing to the general
clamour were the two new boys who sat wedged in among a mass of juniors
at one of the lower tables.  They may have considered that the beating
of their hearts was noisy enough.  But people in this world are slow at
hearing other people's hearts beat.  No one seemed to notice it.

It is due to the stouter of these two young gentlemen to say that the
beating of his heart, and the general state of amaze in which he found
himself, did not interfere greatly with his appetite.  He had brought
that accomplishment, if no other, from home, and not being engaged like
those around him in conversation, he contrived to put away really a most
respectable meal.  Indeed, his exploits in this direction had already
become a matter for remark among his neighbours.

"It's all right," said one of the juniors, who answered to the name of
D'Arcy; "his buttons are sewn on with wire.  They'll hold."

"I suppose he's made of gutta-percha," observed another.  "He'll stretch
a little more before he's done."

"I say, what a bill he's running up!  By the way, what do they charge
for this kind of pudding?"

"It's a dear kind--and nothing like as good as the sort we get for
regular.  I never could understand why they make fellows shell out for
what they eat first-night."

"It _is_ a swindle," said D'Arcy, solemnly.  "I've had to make a very
light meal, because I've only half a crown, and I'm afraid there won't
be much change left out of that."

The new boy was just laying butter on a roll, and preparing to close the
proceedings of the meal with a good square turn of bread and butter.
But as D'Arcy's words fell on his ears he suddenly stopped short and
looked up.

"I say," said he, "isn't this dinner charged in the house bill then?"

D'Arcy laughed derisively.

"Well, you most be a muff.  Don't you know school doesn't begin till to-
morrow?  They give you dinner to-night, but you're not obliged to eat
it."

The new boy took a gulp of water, which he calculated would be gratis
under any circumstances, and then gasped--"I say, I didn't know that."

D'Arcy looked solemn.  "Jolly awkward," said he; "what have you had?"

Whereupon Master Ashby, the new boy, entered on a detailed confession,
which D'Arcy, evidently an expert at mental arithmetic, "totted up" as
he went along.

"How many times pudding did you say?" he asked towards the end, "Twice
and a bit."

"Three and ten; I dare say he won't be stiff about the bit, three and
ten; and that roll and butter--"

"I've not eaten them."

"No, but you've touched them.  You'll be charged, unless you can get a
fellow to take them off your hands."

"Will _you_ have them?" asked Ashby.

Whereupon there was a laugh at _D'Arcy's_ expense, which annoyed that
young gentleman.

"I don't want your second-hand grub.  You'd better take it round and see
what you can get for it."

Ashby looked at the bread, and then glanced round the table.

"No," said he, "I'll have it and pay for it, if it comes to that."

"That'll be four bob."

Ashby gave a gulp of despair.

"I've not got so much."

"Then you'll get in a jolly row."

"Could you lend me one and six, I say?" asked the new boy.

Again D'Arcy got the worst of the laugh.

"Didn't you hear me say I'd only just got enough to pay for my own?  But
I tell you what; you can hide under the table.  You're not known."

Ashby looked round, and felt about with his foot under the table to
ascertain what room there might be there.  Then he flushed up.  "No, I
shan't," said he; "I'd get into the row instead."

As his eye travelled round and marked the curious smile on every face it
suddenly dawned upon him that he had been "done."  His first sensation
was one of immense relief.  He should not have to pay for his dinner
after all!  His second was a cunning device for getting out of the
dilemma.

"I thought you'd begin to laugh soon," said he to D'Arcy.  "I knew you
couldn't keep it up."

D'Arcy turned very red in the face and glared at this audacious
youngster in deserved wrath.

"What do you mean, you young ass?  You know you've swallowed it all."

"He swallowed all the grub anyhow," said another.

"No, I've not," said Master Ashby.  "I'd have another go-in now.  I knew
he'd have to laugh in the end."

It was hopeless to deal seriously with a rebel of this sort.  D'Arcy
tried to ride off on the high horse; but it was not a very grand
spectacle, and Ashby, munching up the remains of his roll, was generally
held to have scored.  The relief with which he hailed the discovery of
his mistake was so genuine, and the good spirits and appetite the
incident put into him were so imperturbable, as to disarm further
experiment at his expense, and he was left comparatively free to enjoy
the noise and imbibe his first impression of Fellsgarth in his own way.

The other new boy, meanwhile, was not altogether without his
difficulties.

Fisher minor, to which name this ingenuous young gentleman answered,
would probably have been the first to pour contempt on the verdure of
his companion.  He had come up to Fellsgarth determined that, in
whatever respect he failed, no one should lightly convict him of being
green.  He had wormed out of his brother in the Sixth a few hints of
what was considered the proper thing at Fellsgarth, and these, with the
aid of his own brilliant intellect and reminiscences of what he had read
in the books, served, as he hoped, both to forewarn and forearm him
against all the uncomfortable predicaments into which the ordinary new
boy is apt to fall.

It must be confessed that as he sat and listened to the noise, and
marked how little Fellsgarth appeared to recognise his existence, he
felt a trifle uneasy and nervous.  He wasn't sure now that he knew
everything.  All these fellows seemed to be so thoroughly at home, and
to know so exactly what to do; he wished he could do the same.

He wished, for instance, he could spin a fork round with his first
finger and thumb while he talked, as Yorke, the captain, was doing.  He
did once privately try, while he was not talking, but it was a dismal
failure.  The fork fell with a great clatter to the floor and attracted
general attraction his way.  He picked the weapon up with as easy an air
as he could assume, whistling _sotto voce_ to himself as he did it, so
as to appear unconcerned.

"Look out, I say; you mustn't whistle at meal-times, it's bad manners,"
said a voice at his side.

He turned round and perceived a pleasant-looking youth of the species
junior, in a red tie and wrist studs to match.

This youth evidently knew what was what at Fellsgarth; and a further
glance at him convinced Fisher minor that he had met him in a good hour.
For all dinner-time he had been exercised as to whether it was the
thing to wear the jacket opened or buttoned.  Yorke wore his buttoned,
so did a good many of the Sixth; and Fisher minor had consequently
buttoned up too.  But his new friend, who was pronounced in all his ways
and evidently an authority on etiquette, wore his open.  Fisher minor
therefore furtively slipped his fingers down and opened his coat.

"You're a new kid, I suppose," said he of the red necktie.

"Yes, I'm Fisher minor."

"What, son of Fisher the boat-builder?  I didn't know he had one so
old."

"No, oh no.  That's my brother up there, talking to the Dux."

"The who?  I don't see any ducks."

"I mean Yorke, you know, the captain."

"Why ever do you call him ducks?  You'd better let him catch you calling
him names like that.  Oh, you're a brother of old Fisher?  You look it."

Fisher minor was alarmed at the tone in which this observation was made.
It seemed to imply that Fisher major was not quite all that could be
desired, and yet the younger brother did not exactly know what it was in
the elder which called for repudiation.  However, he was spared the pain
of deciding by a new voice on his other side.

"What's that, Wally?  Does this kid say he belongs to Fisher?  Oh, my
stars, what form we're coming to!"

Fisher minor glanced round, and experienced a shock as he did so.

For the new speaker was so like the last that he was tempted to suppose
the latter had suddenly changed seats and contrived to substitute a blue
necktie for a red, and button his jacket during the feat.  But when he
looked back, the owner of the red tie was still in his place.  After
considerable wagging of his head, he was forced to admit that he was
seated between two different persons.

"Why, he can't help that," said the gentleman addressed as Wally.

Fisher minor laughed feebly, and really wished his brother would pay a
little more attention to the "form."

"Of course," said Wally, talking across to his twin brother, "fellows
can't tell what asses they look until they're told.  Don't you remember
the chap last term who always wore his trousers turned up, till the
prefects made him turn them down or go on the Modern side."

"Catch us taking any of your cast-off louts on our side," retorted the
other brother, who evidently belonged to the slighted side; "yes--
shocking bad form it was--and when he turned them down at last, they
found seventy-four nibs, fifty matches, and nobody knows how many
candle-ends."

All this time Fisher minor, with panic at his heart, was furiously
trying to turn down his trouser-ends with his feet.  What a lucky escape
for him to get this warning in time!  During the walk round the grounds
he had turned his ends up, and had quite forgotten to put them down
again when he came in.  Now, no coaxing would get them down without
manual assistance.  He sat clawing with one foot after another,
lacerating his shins and his garments in vain.  At length in despair he
dropped his fork again, and under cover of this diversion attempted to
stoop and adjust the intractable folds.

In his flurry he naturally forgot the fork; so that when, after a minute
and a half, he emerged without it into the upper world, his two
companions were not a little perplexed.

"What have you been up to down there?  Do you generally eat your grub
under the table?" asked Wally.  "All I can say is, it's the best place
for him if he wears his hair like that," said the other in tones of
alarm.  "Young kid, I never noticed that before!  Whatever induces you
to part it on the right?  Did you ever hear of a Fellsgarth fellow-- Oh,
I say, what a wigging you'll get!  Look at me and Wally and Yorke and
all of 'em.  Whew! it makes one ill to see it!  Just look round for
yourself."

As more than half of those present appeared to have no parting at all,
and most of the rest parted on the left, Fisher minor realised with
horror that he had been guilty of a terrible solecism.

The alarm depicted in the faces of both the twins was proof enough that
the matter was a critical one.  It was no time for shuffling.  He had
had enough of that over his trouser-ends.  He must throw himself on the
mercy of his critics.

"I quite forgot--of course," said he hurriedly; "I--I--"

"Look here," said Wally, hurriedly shoving a pocket-comb into his hands;
"you'd better go downstairs again and change it sharp, or you'll be
spotted.  Cut along."

So Fisher minor began with shame to look once more for his fork, and in
doing so crawled well under the table, and sitting down proceeded
nervously and painfully to open up a parting on the left side of his
head.  It was an arduous task, and not made easier by the unjustifiable
conduct of the twins, who having got their man safe under hatches began
to kick out in an unceremonious fashion and basely betray his retreat to
their friends and neighbours.

"Pass him on!"

"Hack it through!"

"Ware cats!" was the cry, in the midst of which the luckless Fisher
minor, finding a return to his old place effectually barred, and
wearying of the ceremony of running a gauntlet of all the legs along the
table before it was half over, made a hasty selection of what seemed to
him the mildest pair within reach, and clutching at them convulsively,
hung on for dear life.

The owner of the limbs in question was Ranger, a prefect of his house
and more or less of a grandee at Fellsgarth.  As he was unaware of the
cause of the excitement around him, this sudden assault from below took
him aback, and he started up from his chair in something as near a panic
as a Fellsgarth prefect could be capable of.  Naturally his parasite
followed him.

To Ranger's credit, he took in the situation rapidly, and did not abuse
his opportunities.

"What's this?" he demanded, lifting up Fisher minor, with his hair all
on end and the pocket-comb still in his hand, by the coat-collar.  "Who
does this belong to?"

No one in particular owned the object in question.

"What are you?" asked the prefect.

"I'm Fisher minor; I got under the table, somehow."

"So I should suppose.  Afraid of the draughts, I suppose."

"It was Wally and his brother put me there.  I didn't mean--"

"Oh--Wally, was it?  Here, young Wheatfield, you shouldn't leave your
property about like this.  It's against rules.  Here, hook on, and don't
go chucking it about any more."

"All serene," said the twin.  "Come along, kid.  Done with my comb?  You
look ever so much better form now; doesn't he, you chaps?  How came you
to lose your way downstairs?"

Fisher minor owned himself utterly unable to account for the
misadventure, and discreetly remained silent until the signal was given
to return thanks and separate every boy to his own house.

As he was wandering across the court, very dismal and apprehensive of
what more was in store for him, a lean youth with a pale face and very
showily attired accosted him.

"Hullo, kid, are you a new chap?"

"Yes," replied Fisher minor, eyeing the stranger suspiciously.

"What side are you on?"

Fisher stared interrogatively.

"Well, then, are you Modern or Classic?"

"I don't know, really," said Fisher minor, wishing he knew which he
ought to proclaim himself.  Then making a bold venture, he said, "I
believe Modern."

"Good job for you," said the youth; "saves me the trouble of kicking
you.  Can you lend me a bob?  I'll give it you back to-morrow as soon as
I've unpacked."

It did strike Fisher minor as queer that any one should pack shillings
up in a trunk, but he was too pleased to oblige this important and
fashionable-looking personage to raise any question.

"Yes.  Can you give me change out of a half-crown?  Or you can pay me
the lot back to-morrow, I shan't be wanting it till then," said he.

"All serene, kid; I'm glad you are our side.  I shall be able to give
you a leg-up with the fellows.  Whose house are you in?"

"Wakefield's, the same as my brother."

"What--then you must be a Classic!  They're all Classics at Wakefield's.
Why can't you tell the truth when you're asked, instead of a howling
pack of lies?"

"I didn't know, really, I thought--"

"Come, that's a good one.  Any idiot knows what side he's on at
Fellsgarth."

Fisher minor was greatly confused to stand convicted thus of greenness.

"You see," said he, putting on a little "side" to cover his shame, "I
was bound to be stuck on the same side as my brother, you know."

"Nice for you.  Not a gentleman among them.  All paupers and prigs,"
said this young Modern, waxing eloquent.  "You'll suit them down to the
ground."  Considering that Fisher minor had just lent the speaker half a
crown, these taunts struck him as not exactly grateful.  At the same
time he writhed under the reproach, and felt convinced that Classics
were not at all the "form" at Fellsgarth.

"Why," pursued the other, pocketing his coin in order to release his
hands for a little elocution, "we could boy 'em up twice over.  The
workhouse isn't in it with Wakefield's.  There's not a day but they come
cadging to us, wanting to borrow our tin, or our grub, or something.
There, look at that chap going across there!  He's one of 'em.  Regular
casual-ward form about him.  He's the meanest, stingiest lout in all
Fellsgarth."

"Why," exclaimed Fisher minor, looking in alarm towards this prodigy of
baseness, "why, that's--that's Fisher, my brother!"

The Modern youth's jaw fell with a snap, and his cheeks lost what little
colour they had.

"What?  Why didn't you tell me!  Look here, you needn't tell him what I
said.  It was quite between ourselves, you know.  I must be cutting, I
say.  See you again some day."

And he vanished, leaving Fisher minor considerably more bewildered, and
poorer by a cool half-crown, than he had been five minutes ago.



CHAPTER TWO.

LAMB'S SINGING.

Wakefield's house, as Fisher minor entered it under his brother's wing,
hardly seemed to the new boy as disreputable a haunt as his recent
Modern friend had led him to expect.  Nor did the sixty or seventy
fellows who clustered in the common room strike him as exactly the
lowest stratum of Fellsgarth society.  Yorke, the captain, for instance,
with his serene, well-cut face, his broad shoulders and impressive voice
hardly answered to the description of a lout.  Nor did Ranger, of the
long legs, with speed written in every inch of his athletic figure, and
gentleman in every line of his face, look the sort of fellow to be
mistaken for a cad.  Even Fisher major, about whom the younger brother
had been made to feel decided qualms, could hardly have been the hail-
fellow-well-met he was with everybody, had he been all the new boy's
informant had recently described him.

Indeed, Fisher minor, when presently he gathered himself together
sufficiently to look round him, was surprised to see so few traces of
the "casual-ward" in his new house.  True, most of the fellows might be
poor--which, of course, was highly reprehensible; and some of them might
not be connected with the nobility, which showed a great lack of proper
feeling on their part.  But as a rule they held up their heads and
seemed to think very well of themselves and one another; while their
dress, if it was not in every case as fashionable as that of the
temporary owner of Fisher minor's half-crown, was at least passably well
fitting.

Fisher minor, for all his doubts about the company he was in, could not
help half envying these fellows, as he saw with what glee and self-
satisfaction they entered into their own at Wakefield's.  They were all
so glad to be back, to see again the picture of Cain and Abel on the
wall, to scramble for the corner seat in the ingle-bench, to hear the
well-known creak on the middle landing, to catch the imperturbable tick
of the dormitory clock, to see the top of Hawk's Pike looming out, down
the valley, clear and sharp in the falling light.

Fisher minor and Ashby, as they sat dismally and watched all the fun,
wondered if the time would ever come when they would feel as much at
home as all this.  It was a stretch of imagination beyond their present
capacity.

To their alarm, Master Wally Wheatfield presently recognised them from
across the room, and came over patronisingly to where they sat.

"Hullo, new kids! thinking of your mas, and the rocking-horses, and
Nurse Jane, and all that?  Never mind, have a good blub, it'll do you
good."

Considering how near, in strict secrecy, both the young gentlemen
addressed were to the condition indicated by the genial twin, this
exhortation was not exactly kind.

They tried to look as if they did not mind it, and Fisher minor
naturally did his best to appear knowing.

"I don't mind," said he, with a snigger; "they're all milksops at home.
I'd sooner be here."

"I wouldn't," put in the sturdy Ashby.  "I think it's horrid not to see
a face you know."

"There you are; what did I say!  Screaming for his mammy," gibed Wally.

"And if I was," retorted Master Ashby, warming up, "she's a lot better
worth it than yours, so now!"

Master Wally naturally fired up at this.  Such language was hardly
respectful from a new junior to an old.

"I'll pull your nose, new kid, if you cheek me."

"And I'll pull yours, if you cheek my mother."

"Booh, booh, poor baby!  Who's cheeking your mother?  I wouldn't cheek
her with a pair of tongs.  Something better to do.  I say, are both you
kids Classics?"

"Yes," they replied.

"I thought you must be Moderns, you're both so precious green.  All
right, there'll be lamb's singing directly, then you'll have to sit up."

"What's lamb's singing?" said Ashby.

"Don't you know?" replied Wally, glad to have recovered the whip hand.
"It's this way.  Every new kid has to sing in his house the first-night.
You'll have to."

"Oh," faltered Ashby, "I can't; I don't know anything."

"Can't get out of it; you must," said the twin, charmed to see the
torture he was inflicting.  "So must you, Hair-parting."

Fisher minor was too knowing a hand to be caught napping.  He had had
the tip about lamb's singing from his brother last term, and was
prepared.  He joined in, therefore, against Ashby.

"What, didn't you know that, kid?  You must be green.  _I_ knew it all
along."

"That's all right," said Wheatfield.  "Now I'm going.  I can't fool away
all my evening with you.  By the way, mind you don't get taking up with
any Modern kids.  It's not allowed, and you'll get it hot if you do.  My
young brother," (each twin was particularly addicted to casting
reflections on his brother's age) "is a Modern.  Don't you have anything
to do with him.  And whatever you do, don't lend any of them money, or
there'll be a most awful row.  That's why we always call up
subscriptions for the house clubs on first-night.  It cleans the fellows
out, and then they can't lend any to the Moderns.  You'll have to shell
out pretty soon, as soon as Lamb's singing is over.  Ta, ta."

This last communication put Fisher minor in a terrible panic.  He had
evidently committed a gross breach of etiquette in lending that Modern
boy (whose name he did not even know) a half-crown; and now, when the
subscriptions were called for, he would have to declare himself before
all Wakefield's a pauper.

"I say," said he to Ashby, dropping the patronising for the pathetic,
"could you ever lend me half-a-crown?  I've--I've lost mine--I'll pay it
you back next week faithfully."

"I've only got five bob," said Ashby; "to last all the term, and half a
crown of that will go in the clubs to-night."

"But you'll get it back in a week--really you will," pleaded Fisher
minor, "and I'll--"

But here there was a sudden interruption.  Every one, from the captain
down, looked towards the new boys, and a shout of "lamb's singing,"
headed by Wally Wheatfield, left little doubt as to what it all meant.

"Pass up the new kids down there," called one of the prefects.
Whereupon Fisher minor and Ashby, rather pale and very nervous, were
hustled up to the top of the room, where sat the grandees in a row round
the table on which the sacrifice was to take place.

For the benefit of the curious it may be explained that "lamb's
singing," the name applied to the musical performances of new boys at
Fellsgarth on first-night, is supposed to have derived its title from
the frequency with which these young gentlemen fell back upon "Mary had
a little lamb" as their theme on such occasions.

"Isn't one of them your minor?" asked Yorke of Fisher senior.

"Yes," said the latter rather apologetically; "the one with the light
hair.  He's not much to look at.  The fact is, I only know him slightly.
They say at home he's a nice boy."

"Does he spend much of his time under tables, as a rule?" asked Ranger,
recognising the lost property which had hung on to his legs at dinner-
time.  "If so, I'll take the other one for my fag."

"He's bagged already," said Denton.  "Fisher and I put our names down
for him an hour ago."

"Well, that's cool.  If Fisher wanted a fag he might as well have taken
his own minor."

"Fisher major knew better," said the gentleman in question.  "It might
raise awkward family questions if I had him."

"Wouldn't it be fairer to toss up?" suggested the captain.  "Or I don't
mind swopping Wally Wheatfield for him; if you really--"

Ranger laughed.

"No, thank you, I draw the line at Wally.  I wouldn't deprive you of him
for the world.  I suppose I must have this youngster.  Let's hear him
sing first."

"Yes, lamb's singing.  Now, you two, one at a time.  Who's first?
Alphabetical order."

Ashby, with an inward groan, mounted the rostrum.  If anything could
have been more cruel than the noise which greeted his appearance, it was
the dead silence which followed it.  Fellows sat round, staring him out
of countenance with critical faces, and rejoicing in his embarrassment.

"What's the title!" demanded some one.

"I don't know any songs," said Ashby presently, "and I can't sing."

"Ho, ho! we've heard that before.  Come, forge ahead."

"I only know the words of one that my con--somebody I know--sings,
called the _Vigil_.  I don't know the tune."

"That doesn't matter--out with it."

So Ashby, pulling himself desperately together, plunged recklessly into
the following appropriate ditty; which, failing its proper tune, he
manfully set at the top of his voice, and with all the energy he was
capable of, to the air of the _Vicar of Bray_--

  The stealthy night creeps o'er the lea,
  My darling, haste away with me.
  Beloved, come I see where I stand,
  With arms outstretched upon the strand.

  The night creeps on; my love is late,
  O love, my love, I wait, I wait;
  The soft wind sighs mid crag and pine;
  Haste, O my sweet; be mine, be mine!

This spirited song, the last two lines of which were aught up as a
chorus, fairly brought down the house; and Ashby, much to his surprise,
found himself famous.  He had no idea he could sing so well, or that the
fellows would like the words as much as they seemed to do.  Yet they
cheered him and encored him, and yelled the chorus till the roof almost
fell in.

"Bravo," shouted every one, the captain himself included, as he
descended from the table; "that's a ripping song."

"That sends up the price of our fag, I fancy," said Denton to his chum.
"Your young brother won't beat that."

"Next man in," shouted Wheatfield, hustling forward Fisher minor.  "Now,
kid, lamm it on and show them what you can do."

"Title! title!" cried the meeting.

Now, if truth must be told, Fisher minor had come to Fellsgarth
determined that whatever else he failed in, he would make a hit at
"lamb's singing."  He had made a careful calculation as to what sort of
song would go down with the company and at the same time redeem his
reputation from all suspicion of greenness; and he flattered himself he
had hit upon the exact article.

"Oh," said he, with an attempt at offhand swagger, in response to the
demand.  "It's a comic song, called _Oh no_."

It disconcerted him a little to see how seriously everybody settled down
to listen, and how red his brother's face turned as he took a back seat
among the seniors.  Never mind.  Wait till they heard his song.  That
would fetch them!

He had carefully studied not only the song but the appropriate action.
As he knew perfectly well, there is one invariable attitude for a comic
song.  The head must be tilted a little to one side.  One eyebrow must
be raised and the opposite corner of the mouth turned down.  One knee
should be slightly bent; the first finger and thumb of one hand should
rest gracefully in the waistcoat pocket, and the other hand should be
free for gesture.

All these points Fisher minor attended to now as carefully as his
nervousness would permit, and felt half amused at the thought of how
comic the fellows must think him.

"Do you--" he began.

But at this point Ranger unfeelingly interrupted, and put the vocalist
completely out.

"Did you say `Oh no' or `How now'?"

"Oh no," repeated the singer.

"You mean h-o-w n-o-w?"

"Oh no; it's o-h n-o."

"Thanks--sorry to interrupt.  Fire away."  Fisher tried to get himself
back into attitude, and began again in a thin treble voice;--

Do you think I'm just as green as grass!  Oh no!

Do you take me for a silly ass!  Oh no!  Do you think I don't know A
from B!  Do you think I can't tell he from she!  Do you think I swallow
all I see?

Oh no--not me!  He was bewildered by the unearthly silence of his
audience.  No one stirred a muscle except Wheatfield, who was apparently
wiping away a tear.  Was the song too deep for them, or perhaps he did
not sing the words distinctly, or perhaps they _had_ laughed and he had
not noticed?  At any rate he would try the next verse, which was certain
to amuse them.  He looked as droll as he could, and by way of
heightening the effect, stuck his two thumbs into the armholes of his
waistcoat and wagged his hands in time with the song.

Do you think I lie abed all day?

Oh no!  Do you guess I skate on ice in May?

Oh no!  Do you think I can't tell what is what?  Do you think I don't
know pepper's hot?  Or whereabouts my i's to dot?

Oh no, no rot!

As he concluded, Fisher minor summoned up enough resolution to shake his
head and lay one finger to his nose in the most approved style of
comedy, and then awaited the result.

Fellows apparently did not take in that the song was at an end, for they
neither cheered nor smiled.  So Fisher minor made an elaborate bow to
show it was all over.  The result was the same.  A gloomy silence
prevailed, in the midst of which the singer, never more perplexed in his
life, descended from the table and proceeded to look out for the
congratulations of his admirers.

"Beautiful song," said Wally, still mopping his face.

"I never thought I could be so touched by anything.  We generally get
comic songs on first-night."

"This _is_ a comic one," said Fisher minor.

"Go on," said Wheatfield; "tell that to D'Arcy here--he'll believe you--
eh, D'Arcy?"  D'Arcy looked mysterious.

"It's no laughing matter, young Wheatfield," said he, in a loud whisper,
evidently intended for the eager ears of Fisher minor.  "I heard Yorke
just now ask Denton if he thought Fisher's minor was all there.  Denton
seemed quite cut up, and said he hadn't known it before, but it must be
a great family trouble to the Fishers.  It accounted for Fisher major's
frequent low spirits.  You know," continued D'Arcy confidentially, "I
can't help myself thinking it's a little rough on Fisher major for his
people to send a minor who's afflicted like this to Fellsgarth.  They
might at least have put him on the Modern side.  He'd have been better
understood there."

This speech Fisher minor listened to with growing perplexity.  Was
D'Arcy in jest or earnest?  He seemed to be in earnest, and the serious
faces of his listeners looked like it too.  Had the captain really made
that remark to Denton?  Suppose there _was_ something in it!  Suppose,
without his knowing, he was really a little queer in his head!  His
people might have told him of it.  And Fisher major, his brother--even
he hadn't heard of it!  Oh dear! oh dear!  How was he ever to recover
his reputation for sanity?  Whatever induced him to sing that song?

Poor Fisher minor devoutly wished himself home again, within reach of
his mother's soothing voice and his sisters' smiles.  _They_ understood
him.  These fellows didn't.  _They_ knew he was not an idiot.  These
fellows didn't.

Further reflection was cut short by a loud call to order and cheers, as
Yorke, the captain, rose to his feet.

Every one liked Yorke.  As captain of the School even the Moderns looked
up to him, and were forced to admit that he was a credit to Fellsgarth.
In Wakefield's, his own house, he was naturally an idol.  Prodigious
stories were afloat as to his wisdom and his prowess.  Examiners were
reported to have rent their clothes in despair at his answers; and at
football, rumour had it that once, in one of the out-matches against
Ridgmoor, he had run the ball down the field with six of the other side
on his back, and finished up with a drop at the goal from thirty yards.

But his popularity in his own house depended less on these exploits than
on his general good-nature and incorruptible fairness.  He scorned to
hit an opponent when he was down, and yet he would knock down a friend
as soon as a foe if the credit of the School required it.  A few,
indeed, there were whose habit it was to sneer at Yorke for being what
they called "a saint."  The captain of Fellsgarth would have been the
last to claim such a title for himself; yet those who knew him best knew
that in all he did, even in the common concerns of daily school life, he
relied on the guidance and help of a Divine Friend, and was not ashamed
to own his faith.

The one drawback to his character in the eyes of certain of his fellow-
prefects and others at Wakefield's was that in the standing feud between
Classics and Moderns he would take no part.  He demanded the allegiance
of all parties on behalf of the School, and if any man refused it, Yorke
was the sort of person who would make it his business to know the reason
why.

Now as he got up and waited for the cheers to cease, no one could deny
that he wasn't as fine a captain as Wakefield's could expect to see for
many a day.  And for the first time some of those who even feared him
realised with a qualm that this was the last "first-night" on which he
would be there to make the usual speech.

"Gentlemen," he said, "we are all glad to be back in the old place,"
(cheers).  "At any rate I am," (loud cheers).  "On first-night, as you
know, we always combine business with pleasure.  We have just had the
pleasure," (laughter, in the midst of which Fisher minor pricked up his
ears and wondered if his song wasn't going to be appreciated after all).
"The lambs have bleated and done their level best, I'm sure," (renewed
laughter, and cries of "How now?").  "Now for the business.  Gentlemen,
the house clubs demand your support."  (Fisher minor turned deadly green
as he remembered the Modern boy and his half-crown.  He looked round
wildly for Ashby, but Ashby was standing between Wally and D'Arcy, and
the proximity was not encouraging for Fisher's purpose.  The idea
occurred to him of appealing to his brother.  But Fisher major, pen in
hand, sat at the receipt of custom, and he dare not approach).  "We hope
there will be no shirking.  Every fellow in the house is expected to
back up the clubs.  If the House clubs are not kept up to the mark, the
School clubs are sure to go down," (cheers).  "We don't ask much.  The
seniors pay 5 shillings, the middle-boys 3 shillings 6 pence, and the
juniors 2 shillings 6 pence."  (Fisher minor glanced frantically in the
direction of the door, and began to edge that way.) "Now, gentlemen, one
word more.  You know, last term, there was a lot of bad blood between
Classics and Moderns," (great cheers and three groans for the Moderns).
"Of course it's open to any idiot who likes to make a fool of himself,
and quarrel with anybody he likes.  He's welcome to do it up to a
certain point, if it gives him pleasure.  But I want to say this--and
I'd say it if the whole of the school was here--that if these rows once
begin to interfere with the honour of the School in sports or anything
else, as they nearly did last term, the fellows who indulge in them will
be dropped on pretty heavily, no matter what side or what house they
belong to."

The captain looked so uncommonly like meaning what he said, that D'Arcy,
who had already made an appointment to fight Lickford, a Modern boy, at
the Three Oaks before breakfast to-morrow, quailed under his eye, and
wondered if he could with dignity "scratch" the engagement.

A general movement towards the table at which Fisher major sat with his
pen and account-book followed the captain's speech.  Of all the company
present, only one failed to enrol himself.  He was a new boy called
Fisher minor, who, evidently worn out by the fatigues of the day and
unversed in the etiquette of first-night, had sought the dame at a
somewhat early hour, and received her permission to go to bed.

Such at least was that lady's version when Fisher major, having missed
his minor, made inquiries respecting his absence.

"Best thing he could do, to make himself scarce, after such a
performance," said the elder brother to Denton, who accompanied him.

"Yes, indeed, I envy Ranger his fag.  It's a lucky thing we bagged the
other one in time."

"The young donkey couldn't be in better hands," said Fisher; "but I say,
Den, didn't the captain come down rather heavy with his thunder to-
night?  What does it all mean?"

"Bows, I expect," said Denton.  "He's not going to stand what went on
last term, and I'm jolly glad of it.  We must back him up."

"If he means I'm not to feel inclined to kick Dangle whenever I see him,
I can't promise him much."

"Dangle's a good quarter-mile man, and a good long-stop.  If your
kicking him prevents his playing for the School, you'll have to mind
your eye, my boy.  That's what he means."

"Oh!" grunted Fisher major, "I suppose the rows will begin to-morrow,
when we elect the officers for the School clubs.  Those fellows are sure
to want to stick their own men in."

"At any rate you're safe enough for treasurer, old man.  But come, I'm
dead sleepy to-night.  Time enough for rows to-morrow and the next day."



CHAPTER THREE.

CANVASSING.

When Fisher major woke early next morning he had the curious sensation
of something on his mind without knowing what it was.

He was not out of sorts.  The private supper of which he and Denton and
Ridgway had partaken last night in Ranger's study had been wholesome, if
miscellaneous.  Ranger's people had given him a hamper to bring back,
containing a good many good things--cake, biscuits, potted meats, jam,
Worcester sauce, pickles, coffee, and other groceries intended to
diversify the breakfasts of the half.  By some error of judgment this
valuable article of luggage had come from town in the van, where it had
apparently been placed at the very bottom of the baggage.  The
consequence was, that when it came to be opened, its several ingredients
were found to have got loose, and fused together in a most hopeless way.
Jam, and pickles, and Liebig's extract, and moist sugar were
indistinguishable.  The only thing seemed to be to attack the concoction
_en masse_, without needless delay, and to that end Ranger had summoned
the assistance of his friends and neighbours.  Fisher major was unable
to attribute any part of the weight on his mind to this perfectly
wholesome and homely refreshment.

What was it?  It was not Denton.  He had come back as loyal and festive
as ever, threatening to work hard this half, and determined to have
Fisher major as his guest at the rectory on the lake for the Christmas
vac.

Nor was it the captain's speech last night that bothered him.  True, it
was not altogether conciliatory to those, who, like Fisher major, were
resolved to have no truce with the enemy.  Of course it was the right
thing for Yorke to say.  But Yorke knew, as well as anybody, that the
Classics meant to keep their house Cock-House at Fellsgarth.

Nor was it the accounts; although Fisher minor had to own to himself he
was not a grand hand at finance, and that if he was appointed treasurer
of the School clubs, as well as of his House clubs, he would have his
work cut out for him to keep both funds clear and solvent.

What then was it?  His young brother?  He supposed it must be.  The
young donkey had made a bad beginning at Fellsgarth--which was bad
enough.  But had the elder brother done quite the decent thing in half
disowning him, and letting him run on his fate in the way he had?  A
little brotherly backing up, a word or two of warning, and, if needs be,
a little timely intimidation, might have made all the difference to the
youngster, and would not have done the senior much harm.

Yes; it was this precious minor of his who was on Fisher major's mind.
It was too late, of course, to pick up the milk already spilled.  But it
might be worth while to give him a word of admonition as to his future
conduct.

With this view he sent Ashby (who, with all the alacrity of a brand-new
fag, punctually presented himself for orders before getting-up bell had
ceased ringing) to summon Fisher minor to his brother's room.

"Well, kid," said the elder brother, commencing his toilet, "how did you
get on?  Sleep well?"

"Middling," said Fisher minor.  "Some of the fellows had put pepper on
the blankets, and it got into my eyes--that's all."

"It's a good job they did nothing worse."

"Well," said Fisher minor, who was evidently in a limp state, and had
not at all enjoyed his night, "they _did_ tease a good deal."

"Humph--who did!"

"Well, there was that boy they call--"

"Stop," said Fisher major, turning round fiercely in the middle of
brushing his hair; "do you mean to say you don't know that it's only
cads who sneak about one another?"

"But you asked me."

"Of course I did, and made sure you wouldn't let out.  I hope they'll
give you a few more lively nights, to teach you better."

The young brother's lips gave an ominous quiver at this unfeeling
speech, and he horrified Fisher major by betraying imminent symptoms of
tears.

"Look here, Joey," said the senior, rather more soothingly, "you've made
a jolly bad start, and that can't be helped.  The mistake you made is in
thinking you know everything, whereas you're about as green as they make
them.  Why ever do you pretend not to be?  Look at that other new kid--
the other one who sang.  He's green too; but, bless you, it's no crime,
and all the fellows take to him because he doesn't put on side like you.
Why, that song you sang--oh, my stars!--what on _earth_ put that rot
into your head?"

This finished up poor Fisher minor.  The recollection of his performance
last night was more than he could stand, and he began to whimper.

"Come, old chap," said Fisher major, kindly, patting him on the
shoulder; "perhaps it's not all your fault.  I suppose I ought to have
given you a leg-up, and prevented you making a fool of yourself.  You'll
get on right enough if you don't swagger.  And in any case, don't
blubber."

"I shall never get on here," said the new boy.  "All the fellows are
against me.  Besides--I didn't know it was wrong; and--oh, Tom?--I lent
a fellow half a crown, and now I've nothing to pay for the clubs!"

Fisher major laughed.

"I thought from your tones you were going to confess a murder, at least.
You'd better look alive and get the half-crown back."

"That's just it.  I lent it in the dark to a--a Modern chap; and I don't
know his name."

"Upon my honour, Joey, you are a-- Well, it's no good saying what you
are.  I hope you'll see your money again, that's all."

Fisher minor groaned.

"Would you ever mind lending me half-a-crown for the clubs, just this
once?" he pleaded.

"Very convenient arrangement.  I suppose I shall have to.  At least I'll
mark you as paid; and if you've not got back what you've lent your
friend before I have to shell out, I shall have to pay it for you."

"Thanks, Tom; you're an awful brick," said the younger brother,
brightening up rapidly.  "I say, I wish I could be your fag.  Couldn't
I?"

"Ranger's bagged you--you'll get on better with him than me.  He won't
stand as much nonsense as I might.  There! he is calling.  Cut along,
and don't go making such an ass of yourself again.  You'll have to get
on the best you can with your fellows; I can't interfere with them
unless they break rules, you know.  You can come in here, of course, any
time you like, and if you want a leg-up with preparation, and Ranger's
busy, you may as well do your work here."

After this Fisher major felt a little easier in his conscience, and was
able to face the tasks of the day with a lighter mind than if he had had
the care of his minor upon it all the time.

The school work of the day was not particularly onerous.  Dr Ringwood,
the head-master, held a sort of reception of the Sixth, and delivered,
as was his wont, a little lecture on the work to be taken up during the
ensuing half, interspersed with a few sarcastic references to the work
of the previous half, and one or two jokes, which scoffers like Ridgway
used to say must have cost him many serious hours during the holidays to
develop.

"Aristophanes," said the head-master, after calling attention to the
particular merits of the Greek play to be undertaken, "did not write
solely for the Sixth form of a public school.  I am afraid some of you,
last term, thought that Euripides did.  He will require more than usual
attention.  I am sure he can easily receive it.  I would not, if I were
you boys, be too chary this term of extra work.  Some of you are almost
painfully conscientious in your objection to overdo a particular study.
Aristophanes is an author with whom liberties may safely be taken in
this respect.  The test of a good classical scholar, remember, is not
the work he is obliged to do, but what he is not obliged to do--his
extra work; I advise you not to be afraid to try it.  The Sanatorium has
been unusually free of cases of over-pressure lately.  A quarter of an
hour's extra work a day by the Sixth is not at all likely to tax its
capacity," etcetera.

This was the doctor's pleasant style, delivered with a severe face and
downcast eyes.

Then ensued a little lecture to the prefects on their duties and
responsibilities, which was respectfully listened to.  To judge by it,
such a thing as any rumour of dissensions between rival sides and houses
in the school had never reached his ears.  And yet the knowing ones said
the doctor knew better than the captain himself everything that went on
in Fellsgarth, and could at any moment lay his hand on an offender.  But
he preferred to leave the police of the place to his head boys; and on
the whole it was perhaps better for the School that he did.

To a larger or less degree the other forms, Classic and Modern, were
lectured in similar strains by their respective masters.  The new boys
among the junior division were, perhaps, the only ones who listened
attentively to what Mr Stratton, the young, cheery athlete who presided
over their studies, had to say.  And even the irrespectful admiration
was a good deal distracted by the babel of voices which was going on all
round them.

"Never mind him," said D'Arcy; "he's a kid of a master, and don't know
any better.  It's all rot.  Bless you, we get the same thing--"

"D'Arcy," said the master, suddenly, "I was recommending the value of
extra work, especially for clever boys.  Perhaps you will try the
experiment with fifty lines of Virgil by this time to-morrow."

"There you are," said D'Arcy, appealing to his neighbours; "didn't I
tell you he talked rot?  Did you ever hear such a stale joke as that?"

The two new boys were tremendously impressed by this sudden swoop of
vengeance, and gazed open-mouthed at the master for the rest of the
class, stealing only now and again a hasty glance at D'Arcy to see how
he was bearing up against his sore afflictions.

D'Arcy, to do him justice, appeared to be bearing up very well.  He was,
in truth, engaged in a mental calculation as to how, during the coming
term, he could most economically "job" out the impositions which usually
fell to his share.  If his countenance now and then brightened as he met
the awe-struck gaze of the two new boys, it was because in them he
thought he discerned a lively hope of solving the problem creditably to
himself and not unprofitably to them.

"Come along," said he as soon as the class was released; "let's get out
into the fresh air and have a cool.  Hullo, Wally," as the owner of that
name trotted up, "what's up?"

"Up?" said Wally in tones of injured innocence; "one would think you
didn't know it was School club elections on in an hour, and all the
chaps to whip up!  If the Moderns turn up in force, it'll be touch-and-
go if they don't carry every man.  I can't stop now--mind you bring
those kids."

And off he went with all the importance of captain's fag on his
electioneering tour.

"Wally's right," said D'Arcy.  "It'll be a close shave to carry our men.
You see, kids," added he condescendingly, "it's just this way.  The
Moderns are going to try to carry the clubs to-day, and if they do, the
whole of us aren't going to stand it, and there'll be such a jolly row
in Fellsgarth as--well, wait till you _see_."

This sounded very awful.  Fisher minor would have liked to know what
sort of clubs were to be carried, but did not like to ask.  Ashby,
however, more honest, demanded further particulars.

"I don't know what you mean," said he.

"Don't suppose you do.  Whose fault is that?  All you've got to do is to
yell for our side and vote for our men."

That seemed simple enough, if D'Arcy would _only_ vouchsafe to tell them
when to begin.

"Come along," said the latter.  "We've half an hour yet to canvass.  You
know Wally's and my study?"

"Yes."

"All right; now you," pointing to Ashby, "you hang outside that door.
That's the Modern minors' class.  Collar one of them as they come out,
or two if you can; and fetch 'em up to my room.  You," pointing to
Fisher minor, "go and prowl about the kids' gymnasium and fetch any one
with a blue ribbon on his hat, as many as you can bag.  I'm going to see
if I can find some of 'em near the tuck-shop.  Kick twice on my door and
say `Balbus,' so that I shall know it's you.  Go on; off you go.  Don't
muff it, whatever you do, or it'll be your fault if Fellsgarth goes to
pot."

Ashby, whose uncle was an M.P., had had some little experience in
general elections, but he never remembered canvassing of this kind
before.  However, D'Arcy had an authoritative air about him, and as the
School was evidently in peril, and there was no suspicion of practical
joking in the present case, he marched off sturdily to the Modern
minors' class-room, and sheltering himself conveniently behind the door,
waited the turn of events.

He had not to wait long.  He could hear the master announcing the lesson
for preparation, and the general shuffle which precedes the dismissal of
a class.  Then his heart beat a little faster as he distinguished
footsteps and heard the unsuspecting enemy approaching his way.

Now Ashby, although a new boy, was _man_ enough to calculate one or two
things.  One was that his best chance was either to attack the head or
the tail of the procession; and secondly, that as the head boys in a
form are usually those nearest the front, and conversely, the lowest are
usually nearest to the door, the smallest boys would probably be the
first to come out.  For all of which reasons he decided to make his
swoop at once, and if possible abscond with his booty before the main
body arrived on the scene.

The event justified his shrewdness.  The moment the door opened, two
small Moderns scampered out clean into the arms of the expectant
kidnapper, who before they had time so much as to inquire who he was or
what he wanted, had a grip on the coat-collar of each, and was racing
them as hard as their short legs could carry them across the grass.

"Let go, you cad!" squeaked one, presently.  "What we you doing!"

"It's only fun," said Ashby, encouragingly; "come along."

The other prisoner was more practical.  He tried to bite his captor's
hand, and when he failed in that, he tried to kick.  But though he
succeeded better in this, the pace was kept up and the grip on his
collar, if anything, tightened.  Whereupon he attempted to sit down.
But that, though it retarded the progress, was still insufficient to
arrest it.  The pace dropped to a quick walk, and in due time, greatly
to Ashby's relief, the portal of Wakefield's was reached.

Here, of course, all was safe.  If any of the few boys hanging about had
been inclined to concern themselves in the affair, the colour of the
ribbon on the victims' hats was quite sufficient reason for allowing the
law to take its course; and Ashby, who began to grow very tired of his
burden (which insisted on sitting down on either side all the way
upstairs), arrived at length at Messrs. D'Arcy and Wally's door without
challenge.

He had no need to knock, or say "Balbus," as the room was empty.  The
other canvassers had evidently not yet returned.

With a sigh of relief he deposited his loads on the carpet and locked
the door.

"Let us go, you cad!" yelled the prisoners.  "What do you want bringing
us here into this place for?"

"Fun," said Ashby.  "You'll know presently."

"If you don't let us out, we'll yell till a master comes."

"Will you?--we're used to yelling here.  Yell away; it'll do you good."

To the credit of the two "voters" they did their best, and made such a
hideous uproar that Ashby began to grow uneasy, and was immensely
relieved when presently he heard outside a sound as of coals being
carelessly carried up the staircase.  Some one was evidently coming up
with a good load.

Ashby was prudent enough not to open the door till an irregular double
kick and a breathless cry of "Balbus, look sharp," apprised him that
another of the electioneering agents had returned.  He then cautiously
opened the door, and in tumbled D'Arcy, gasping, yet triumphant, under
the weight of three fractious youngsters.

"Bully for us," said he, surveying the harvest.  "Five for our side.
Jolly well done of you, kid--you're a stunner.  Two of mine are new
kids--they came easy enough; but the other's a regular badger."

The badger in question seemed determined to maintain his reputation, for
he flew upon his captor, calling upon his fellow-prisoners to do the
same.  All but the new boys obeyed, and the two "canvassers" were very
hard put to it for a while, and might have fared yet worse, had not
D'Arcy astutely hung out a flag of truce.  "Look here," said he; "I
never knew such idiots as you Modern kids are.  Here I've done my best
to be friends and invited you to a spread in my room; and now you won't
even let me go to the cupboard and get out the black currant jam and
cake."

"You're telling crams; that's not why you brought us here.  You're a
howling--"

"Yes, really," said D'Arcy, in quite a friendly tone, "Cry _pax_ for one
minute, and if I don't hand out the things you may go; honour bright.
I've a good mind to kick you out without giving you anything."

The caged animals sullenly fell back and eyed the cupboard which D'Arcy
leisurely opened.  A row of half a dozen pots on a top shelf, a segment
of a plum-cake, and something that looked very like honey in the comb,
met their greedy eyes.

"There you are," said D'Arcy.  "What did I tell you!  They belong to
Wally; he'll be here directly.  You'll be all right--all except _you_,"
said he, singling out his principal assailant.  "You don't know how to
behave, like these other kids.  I shall advise Wally not to waste any of
his stuff on you."

"I didn't know it was a feast," said the youth, much softened.  "I
thought you were only humbugging; really I did."

"I've a good mind to do what you think.  You'd better mind your eye, I
can tell you--I wish Wally would come.  There's five o'clock striking--
I'll go and look for him.  Ashby, you see if he's in the library; you
kids, stay here, and lock the door, and don't let anybody in but Wally.
Do you hear?  If you do, you'll get it pretty hot for being out of your
house.  And look here, if Wally doesn't come by half-past, you can help
yourselves."

"Thanks awfully," said the party.

"Mind! honour bright you don't touch a thing till the clock strikes the
half.  When you've done, stay here till one of us comes to fetch you,
and we'll see you safe out.  Don't go without, as our chaps are awfully
down on Moderns this term, and you'll get flayed alive.  If they've seen
you come in, they'll try to get at you, be sure; so lock yourselves in,
whatever you do, and don't make the room in too great a mess.  Come
along, Ashby; let's look for Wally."

"Cut hard," said he, as soon as they stood outside, and had heard the
lock within duly turned.  "We've only just time to get over; that's five
votes lost to their side!  Real good business!  I wonder where the other
new kid is?  He was bound to make a mess of it.  That's why I sent him
to the gymnasium; it's closed to-day."

"Hooray for the Cock-House!" shouted Ashby, as, side by side with his
now admiring patron, he entered the School Hall, where the ceremony of
club elections was just beginning.

At the door they encountered Wheatfield.

"Such games!" whispered D'Arcy, clapping him joyously on the back.
"We've got five Modern kids boxed up in our room, waiting for the clock
to strike the half-hour before they have a tuck in at our empty jam-
pots."

"Ha, ha!" said Wheatfield; "splendid joke!" and vanished.

D'Arcy's countenance suddenly turned pale as he gripped his companion by
the arm.

"What's the matter?" inquired Ashby, alarmed for his friend's health.
"What's up?"

"It's all up!  We're regularly done.  My, that _is_ a go!"

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Why, you blockhead, didn't you see that was the wrong Wheatfield--not
Wally, but the Modern one!  And now he's gone to let those chaps out,
and we're clean done for!"

"Whew! what is to be done?" groaned Ashby, almost as pale as his friend.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A CLOSE ELECTION.

Ever since certain well-meaning governors, two years ago, had succeeded
in forcing upon Fellsgarth the adoption of a Modern side, the School had
been rent by factions whose quarrels sometimes bordered on civil war.
When people squabble about the management of a school outside, the boys
are pretty sure to quarrel and take sides against one another inside.

The old set, consisting mostly of the Classical boys, felt very sore on
the question.  It was a case of sentiment, not argument.  If boys, said
they, wanted to learn science and modern languages, let them; but don't
let them come fooling around at Fellsgarth and spoiling the reputation
of a good old classical school.  There were plenty of schools where
fellows could be brought up in a new-fangled way.  Let them go to one of
these, and leave Fellsgarth in peace to her dead authors.

The boys who used such arguments, it is fair to say, were not always the
most profound classical scholars.  Most of them, like D'Arcy and Wally
Wheatfield, had a painful acquaintance with the masterpieces of old-
world literature in the way of impositions, but there their interest
frequently ended.  The upper Classical boys, however, though not so
noisily hostile, had their own strong opinions about the new departure;
and when it was discovered that the new Modern side had not only
alienated one or two of their old comrades, but, so far from being
apologetic, were disposed to claim equal rights with, and in certain
cases superior privileges to, the old boys, the relations became
strained all round.

As it happened, the Modern set consisted of a number of moderate
athletes who could not be wholly ignored in the School sports, and had
no intention of being ignored.  And to add to their crimes they numbered
among them a good number of rich boys, who boasted in public of their
wealth with a freedom which was particularly aggravating to the
Classical seniors, who were for the most part boys to whose parents
money was an important consideration.

As has been said, the rivalry had been growing acute all last term, and
but for Yorke's determined indifference, it might long ago have come to
a rupture.  Now, every one felt that at any moment the peace might be
broken, and civil war break out between the two sides at Fellsgarth.

The School clubs offered a rare opportunity for an exhibition of party
feeling, for they were the common ground on which every one was bound to
meet every one else on _level_ terms.

By an old rule, every member of the House clubs was a member of the
School clubs and had the privilege of electing the committee and
officers for the year.  It was this business which brought together the
crowd that flocked into the Hall to-day; and it was in view of this
critical event that Mr D'Arcy had carefully shut up five voters of the
other side in his study until the election should be over.

"Whatever's to be done?" asked Ashby, with blank countenance.

"Nobody but a born idiot would begin to ask riddles just now!" retorted
D'Arcy surlily.  "Shut up; that's what's to be done."

"I expect it will be all right," persisted the dogged Ashby, venturing
on a further remark.  "They won't let him in, if he's not Wally; or if
they do, they'll go for him."

"I hope they will.  Anyhow we've done our best.  Stick near the door.
We may be able to bundle a few of 'em out before the voting comes on.
Look out, Yorke's speaking.  Yell as hard as you can."

Whereupon Ashby lay his head back and yelled until D'Arcy kicked him and
told him it was time to shut up.

Yorke was moving a resolution that the captains, vice-captains,
secretaries, and treasurers of each house should form the School sports
committee, whose business it would be to arrange matches, keep the
ground, make rules, and generally organise the athletics of Fellsgarth.
He hoped every one would agree to this.

Clapperton, the Modern captain, and head of Forder's house, rose to
second the motion.

"Howl away!" said D'Arcy, nudging his _protege_.  Whereupon Ashby held
on to a desk and howled till the windows shook.

"That'll do," shouted D'Arcy in his ear after a moment or two, and
Ashby, thankful for the relief, shut off steam and awaited his next
orders.

Clapperton was a big, smirking fellow, rather loudly dressed, with a
persuasive voice and what was intended to be a condescending manner.
Some fellows could never make out why Clapperton did not go down in
Fellsgarth.  He tried to be civil, he was lavish with his pocket-money,
and always disclaimed any desire to quarrel with anybody.  And yet no
one oared for him, while of course the out-and-out champions of the
rival side hated him.  He seconded with pleasure the motion of "his
friend Yorke,"--("Cheek!" exclaimed D'Arcy, _sotto voce_; "what business
has he to call our captain his friend!") This was the old rule of
Fellsgarth, and a very good rule.  It meant hard work, but he was always
glad to do what he could for the old School.  (It always riled the
Classics to hear a Modern talking about "the old School," and their
backs went up at this.)  He had been on this committee two years now,
and had had the pleasure in a humble way of helping the clubs through
one or two of their financial difficulties, and he should be glad to
serve again.  He seconded the motion.

It was a trial to one or two who had listened to see that the names were
being put to the vote by Yorke _en bloc_, without giving them the chance
of voting against anybody.  Never mind, their chance for that would
come!

The next business was the election of captain of the clubs; and of
course Yorke was chosen by acclamation.  No one dared oppose him.  Even
"his friend Clapperton," who had the pleasure of proposing him, was sure
every one would be as glad as he would to see "his fellow-captain" (oh,
how the Classics squirmed and ground their teeth at the expression!) at
the head of the clubs.

The pent-up feelings of D'Arcy and those of his way of thinking found
some relief in the demonstration which accompanied the carrying of this
resolution.  It was too good a chance to be lost, and for three minutes
by the clock the Classics stood on their feet and cheered their
champion, glaring defiantly as they did so at the Moderns, who having
held up their hands and cheered a little, relapsed into silence and left
the noise in the hands of the other side.

Then followed the election of vice-captain, which of course had to go to
Clapperton.  This time the Moderns had their demonstration amid the
silence of the Classics, who thought they had never in their lives seen
fellows make such asses of themselves.

It was twenty minutes past the hour, and D'Arcy and Ashby were both
getting uncomfortable and impatient.  What did these Modern idiots want
to waste the time of everybody by standing there and bellowing!  It was
scandalous.

"Shut up--go on to the next vote," they cried, but in vain.  The Moderns
were going to have their full share, if not a little more, of the row,
and to stop them before their time was hopeless.

"Disgusting exhibition, isn't it?" said D'Arcy; "never mind.  Hullo, I
say, there's some one at the door.  It's those chaps!"

No, it was only Fisher minor, who, having waited meekly all this time
outside the deserted gymnasium, now ventured, like a degenerate
Casabianca, to desert his post and come and see what was going forward
in the Hall.

As he tried to enter, a Modern boy, seeing by his ribbon that he was on
the wrong side, put his foot against the door and tried to turn him
back.  But his little plot dismally failed.  For D'Arcy and Ashby,
shocked and horrified witnesses of this scandalous act of corruption,
came to the rescue with a hubbub which even made itself heard above the
shouting.

"Let him in!--howling cheat!--he's trying to shut out one of our side!
Ya-boo!  That's the way you elect your men, is it!  Come in, Fisher
minor.  Let him in, do you hear?  All right; come on, you fellows, and
kick this Modern chap out for a wretched sneak--(that'll be seven off
their side, counting Wheatfield; and one more to us--bully!)  Yah,
cheats! turn 'em out!"

Amid such cries of virtuous indignation, Fisher minor was hauled in, and
his obstructor, by the same _coup de main_, excluded.  Fisher minor
might have had his head turned by this triumphal entry, had he not
recognised in the ejected Modern boy the gentleman to whom he had lent
his half-crown on the previous evening.  Any reminder of yesterday's
misfortunes was depressing to him, and his joy at finding himself on the
right side of the door now was decidedly damped by the knowledge that
his half-crown was on the wrong.  However, there was no time for
explanations, as the shouting had ceased, and an evidently important
event was about to take place.  This was the appointment of treasurer,
for whom each of the rival sides had a candidate; that of the Classics
being Fisher major, and that of the Moderns Brinkman of Forder's house,
a particular enemy of the other side, and reputed to be rich and no
gentlemen.

Both candidates were briefly proposed and seconded by boys of their own
side, and both having declared their intention of going to the vote, a
show of hands was demanded.

The excitement of our young friends at the end of the Hall while this
tedious operation was in progress may well be imagined.  The captain had
sternly ordained silence during the voting; so that all they could do
was to hold up their hands to the very top of their reach, and keep a
wild look-out that they were being counted, and that none of the enemy
was in any way, moral or physical, circumventing them.  As for Fisher
minor, he simply trembled with excitement as he cast his eyes round and
calculated his brother's chances.  He could not comprehend how any one
could dare not to vote for Fisher major; and absorbed in that wonder he
continued to hold up his hand long after the two tellers had agreed
their figure, and the captain had ordered "hands down."

"Fisher major, one hundred and twenty-seven votes; now, hands up for
Brinkman."

"Whew!" said D'Arcy, fanning himself with his handkerchief; "it'll be a
close shave.  I say, we'd better lean up hard against the door.  It'll
keep out the draughts."

"They've got it, I'm afraid," said Ashby, looking round at the forest of
hands; "we hadn't as many as that."

"I say, that cad Brinkman is voting for himself," said some one.

"What a shame!  My brother didn't.  He's too honourable," said Fisher
minor.

"Hullo!  `How now'--you there?" cried Wally.

Whereupon, amid great laughter, Fisher minor retired modestly behind the
rest.

The counting seemed interminable, and every moment, to the guilty ears
of Ashby, there seemed to be a sound of footsteps without.  At last,
however, the cry, "hands down," came once more, and you might have heard
a pin drop.

"Fisher major, one hundred and twenty-seven votes; Brinkman, one hundred
and twenty-two.  Fisher majors elected."

Amid the terrific Classic cheers which greeted this announcement, D'Arcy
and Ashby exchanged glances.

Those five voters, waiting patiently in Wally's room for the clock to
strike the half-hour, would have turned the scale!

Ashby wished the majority had been greater or less.  But he tried to be
jubilant, and in response to D'Arcy's thumps on the back yelled and
roared till he was black in the face.

As he did so, he caught sight through the window of a small procession
of five or six boys emerging from the door of Wakefield's house and
starting at a trot in the direction of Hall.

"I say," shouted he in D'Arcy's ear, "here they come!"

D'Arcy abruptly ceased shouting and descended from his form.

"Come and squash up near the front," said he, hurriedly; "more room, you
know, up there."

"Hoo, hoo! nearly licked that time," shouted a Modern youth near the
door, as they moved forward.  "Served you right!"

"Never mind, we'll take it out of you, next vote," retorted D'Arcy.
"Come on, kid; squash up."  Then a happy thought struck him.  The boys
immediately near the door were mostly Moderns.  What a fine bit of
electioneering, if he could get them to shut out their own men!  So he
shouted, "Look out, our side!  Mind they don't keep out any of our
chaps.  Just the sort of dodge they'd be up to."

Whereupon the Moderns set their backs determinedly against the door and
wagged their heads at one another, and were obliged to D'Arcy for the
tip.

"That'll do for 'em," said that delighted schemer; "they won't let 'em
in, you bet.  Look out--they're going to vote for secretary now."

The Classical side candidate for this important office was Ranger,
almost as great an idol in his house as the captain himself.  His Modern
opponent was Dangle, a clever senior, reputed to be Clapperton's toady
and man-of-all-work.  It was felt that if he were secretary, there would
be a strong Modern bias given to the clubs, which in the opinion of the
Classic partisans would be disastrous.

The show of hands had been taken for Ranger, and every one was silent to
hear the figures, when a hideous clamour arose at the door, with shouts
of--

"Open the door I let us in.  Cheats!  Fair play!"

To D'Arcy's satisfaction, as from the safe shelter of a front place he
peered down that way, the Moderns held their post at the door and
refused to let it open.  For a minute it looked as if they would
succeed; when suddenly the irate Wally appeared on the scene, followed
by Fisher minor, and shouting, "Cheats! cads!  Let our fellows in!" went
for the obstructionists.

"Stupid ass!" growled D'Arcy.  "It's all up now.  Why couldn't he have
let them be?"

A short and sharp _melee_ followed.  The Classics were reinforced
rapidly, and the Moderns, seeing their plot detected and fearing the
intervention of the seniors, sullenly raised the blockade, and allowed
the door to open.

Whereat in tumbled Percy Wheatfield with five young Moderns at his
heels--the very five who had been waiting for the clock to strike in
Wally's study.

"What do you mean by keeping us out!" demanded Percy of his brother, who
chanced to be the first person he encountered.

"What are you talking about?" retorted Wally, extremely chagrined to
discover who it was he had been helping.  "We were the chaps who let you
in!  It was your own cads who were keeping you out.  Ask them."

"We thought you were Classics," said one of the offenders, letting the
cat out of the bag.

"Oh, you beauty!  Wait till I get some of you outside," bellowed the
outraged Percy.

"Order!  Shut up, you kids down there!" was the cry from the front.

"Shut up, you kids down there!" echoed D'Arcy and Ashby on their own
account.

"Ranger one hundred and twenty-three.  Hands up for Dangle; and if the
youngsters down there don't make less noise, I'll adjourn the meeting,"
said the captain.  This awful threat secured silence while the counting
proceeded.  D'Arcy's face grew longer and longer, and Wally at the back
began to breathe vengeance on the world at large.

"Hands down."

The captain turned and said something to Clapperton; and Fisher major,
who overheard what was said, looked very glum.  Every one knew what was
coming.

"Ranger one hundred and twenty-three votes, Dangle one hundred and
twenty-four.  Dangle is--"

The shouts of the Moderns drowned the last words, and the captain had to
wait a minute before he could finish what he had to say.

"The votes are very close," said he.  "If any one would like, we can
count again."

"No, no!" cried Ranger.  "It's all right.  I don't dispute it."

"That concludes the elections," said the captain.

And amid loud cheers and counter-cheers the meeting dispersed.

The prefects of Wakefield's house met that evening in Yorke's study to
talk over the events of the afternoon.

The captain was the only person present who appeared to regard the
result of the elections with equanimity.

"After all," said he, "though I'm awfully sorry about old Ranger, it
seems fairer to have the officers evenly divided.  There's much less
chance of a row than it we were three to their one."

"That's all very well," said Fisher, whose pleasure in his own election
had been completely spoiled by the defeat of his friend, "if we could
count on fair play.  You know Dangle as well as I do.  I'd sooner resign
myself than have him secretary."

"What rot!" said Ranger.  "You'd probably only give them another man.
No, we shall have to see we get fair play."

"And give it, too," said the captain.

"They simply packed the meeting," said Dalton, "and fetched up five
juniors at the very end, who turned the scale.  If our fellows had done
the same, we should have been all right."

"I don't see the use of growling now it's well over," said Yorke; "the
great thing is to see we get the best men into the teams, and that they
play up."

"We hardly need go outside Wakefield's for that," said Fisher major;
"they've not a man worth his salt in a football scrimmage."

"Look out that they haven't more than we have, that's all," said the
captain, gloomily.  "I tell you what, you fellows," added he, with a
touch of temper in his voice, "if our house is to be Cock-House at
Fellsgarth, we can't afford to make fools of ourselves.  The School's a
jolly sight more important than any one house, and as long as I'm
captain of the School clubs I don't intend to inquire what house a man
belongs to so long as he can play.  We can keep all our jealousy for the
House club if you like; but if it's to be carried into the School sports
we may as well dissolve the clubs and scratch all our matches at once."

"I wonder if Clapperton is giving vent to the same patriotic sentiments
to his admirers," said Ridgway, laughing.  "Fancy him, and Dangle, and
Brinkman conspiring together for the glory of the School."

"Why not!" said the captain, testily.  "Why won't you give anybody
credit for being decent outside Wakefield's?"

"I'm afraid old Yorke hardly gives any one credit for being decent in
it.  For pity's sake don't lecture any more to-night, old man," said
Dalton.  "I'll agree to anything rather than that."

"There's just one more thing," said Yorke, "which you may take as
lecture or not as you like.  Clapperton said something about helping out
the clubs with money.  Fisher major, you are the treasurer; don't have
any of that.  Don't take more than the regular subscription from
anybody, and don't take less.  If there's a deficit let's all stump up
alike.  We don't want anybody's charity."

This sentiment was generally applauded, and restored the captain in the
good opinion of every one present.  After all, old Yorke's bark was
always worse than his bite.  He wasn't going to be put upon by the other
side, however much he seemed to stick up for them.

Ranger waited a few minutes after the others had gone.

"Look here, Ranger," said the captain, "you must back me up in this.
You can afford to do it, because you've been beaten.  I only wish you
were in my place.  I know you hate those fellows, and are cut up to have
lost the secretaryship."

"I'm not going to break my heart about that," said Ranger.

"Of course not.  You're going to do what will be a lot more useful.
You're going to work as hard for the School as if you were secretary and
captain in one; and you're going to back me up in keeping the peace,
aren't you?"

"Would you, if you were in my shoes?" said Ranger.

"I might find it hard, but I almost think I should try.  And if I had
your good temper, I should succeed too."

Hanger laughed.

"I didn't think you went in for flattery, Yorke.  Anyhow, I believe you
are right.  I'll be as affectionate as I can to those Modern chaps.
Ugh! good night."

After the day's excitement Fellsgarth went to bed early.  But no one
dreamed, least of all the heroes of the exploit themselves, how much was
to depend earing the coming months on those five small voters who had
waited patiently in Wally Wheatfield's study that afternoon to hear the
clock strike 5:30.



CHAPTER FIVE.

PERCY WHEATFIELD, ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY.

The misgivings of the Classics were justified.  The Moderns did not
accept their victory at Elections with a meekness which augured harmony
for the coming half.

On the contrary, they executed that difficult acrobatic feat known as
going off their heads, with jubilation.

For many terms they had groaned under a sense of inferiority, partly
imagined but partly well founded, in their relations with the rival
side.  The Classics had given themselves airs, and, what was worse,
proved their right to give them.  In its early days the Modern side was
not "in it" at Fellsgarth.  Its few members were taught to look upon
themselves as altogether a lower order of creation than the pupils of
the old foundation, and had accepted the position with due humility.
Then certain rebellious spirits had arisen, who dared to ask why their
side wasn't as good as any other?  The answer was crushing.  "What can
you do?  Only French, and book-keeping and `stinks'"--(the strictly
Classical nickname for chemistry).  "You can't put a man into the
cricket or football field worth his salt; your houses are rowdy; your
men do nothing at the University; two out of three of you are not even
gentlemen."  Whereupon the Moderns went in desperately for sports, and
claimed to be represented in the School clubs.  They maintained that
they were as good gentlemen as any who talked Latin and Greek; and to
prove it they jingled their money in their trouser-pockets, and asked
what the Classics could do in that line.  The Classics could do very
little, and fell back on their moral advantages.  By degrees the new
side grew in numbers, and made themselves heard rather more definitely.
They put into the field one or two men who could not honestly be denied
a place in the School teams; and they began to figure also among the
School prefects.  The present seniors, Clapperton and his friends,
carried the thing a step further, and insisted on equal rights with
their rivals in all the School institutions.  To their surprise they
found an ally in Yorke, who, as we have already said, hurt the feelings
of many of his admirers by his Quixotic insistence on fair play all
round.

The proceedings yesterday had been the most recent instance of the flow
in the tide of Modern progress at Fellsgarth.  Reinforced by an unusual
influx of new boys, they had aimed at, and succeeded in winning, their
level half of the control of the School clubs; and Yorke had looked on
and let them do it!

No wonder they went off their heads as they discoursed on their triumph,
and no wonder they already pictured themselves masters of Fellsgarth!

It never does occur to some people that the mountain is not climbed till
the top is reached.

"Really, you know," said Brinkman, "I felt half sorry for those poor
beggars; they did look so sick when Dangle was elected."

"It's my opinion," said Clapperton, "you'd have been in too, if all our
fellows had turned up.  I saw four or five of our youngsters come in at
the last moment."

"Yes--by the way," said Dangle, "that ought to be looked into.  It's
fishy, to say the least of it, and would have made all the difference to
Brinkman's election."

"Do you know who the fellows were?" asked Clapperton.

"I believe your fag was one of them."

"Percy Wheatfield?  Catch him being shut out of anything.  But I'll ask
about it.  Fancy poor Yorke's feelings if we were to demand a new
election!"

"I tell you what," said Dangle, "I don't altogether understand Yorke.
He tries to pass off as fair, and just, and all that sort of thing; but
one can't be sure he's not playing a game of his own."

"We shall easily see that when it comes to choosing the football fifteen
against Rendlesham.  I mean to send him in a list of fellows on our
side.  It's only fair we should have half of them our men."

"Half fifteen is seven and a half," said Fullerton, a melancholy senior
who had not yet spoken; "how will you manage about that?"

"Shut up, you ass!"

"I only asked," said Fullerton.  "It doesn't matter to me, I don't mind
going as the half man, if you like.  If you send seven names you'll be
in a minority in the fifteen, and if you send eight you'll be in a
majority.  It doesn't matter to me a bit."

"Just like Fullerton.  Always asking riddles that haven't got an
answer," said Dangle.

"I wonder how Fisher will manage the treasurership," said Brinkman, who
was evidently sore at his defeat.  "I shouldn't have thought accounts
were much in his line."

"He can't have very hard work doing his own," said Clapperton, laughing,
"but that's not his fault, poor beggar.  Only I think it would be much
better to have a fellow for treasurer who wasn't in a chronic state of
being hard up."

"I suppose you mean," said Fullerton, who had a most awkwardly blunt way
of putting things, "he'd have less temptation to steal.  I hope Fisher's
not a thief."

"What an idiot you are, Fullerton!" said Clapperton; "whoever said he
was?"

"I didn't.  I only asked what you thought.  It doesn't much matter to
me, except that it wouldn't be creditable to the School."

"Of course it wouldn't; it's hardly creditable to our side to have a
jackass in it," said Clapperton.

"Oh, all right--I'll go.  I dare say you'll get on as well without me."

The others presently followed his example, and Clapperton, left to
himself, proceeded to draw up his list.

"Dear Yorke," he wrote, "You will probably be making up the fifteen for
the Rendlesham match shortly.  Please put down me, Brinkman, Dangle,
Fullerton, West, Harrowby, and Ramshaw major, to play from our side.
This will give your side the odd man.

"Yours truly,--

"Geo.  Clapperton."

This important epistle accomplished, he shouted for his fag to come and
convey it to its destination.

It was not till after several calls, on an increasing scale of
peremptoriness, that Master Percy condescended to appear.  When he did,
he was covered with dost from head to foot, and his face, what could be
seen of it, was visibly lopsided.

"Why don't you come when you're called?  Whatever have you been up to--
fighting?"

"Rather not," said Percy, "only boxing.  You see, it was this way;
Cottle brought a pair of gloves up this term, and young Lickford had an
old pair; so we three and Ramshaw have been having an eight-handed mill.
It was rather jolly; only Ramshaw and Lickford had the old gloves on,
and they've all the horse-hair out, so Cottle and I got it rather hot on
the face.  But we took it out of them with our body blows--above the
belt, you know--not awfully above.  I couldn't come when you called,
because we were wrestling out one of the rounds.  It's harder work an
eight-handed wrestle than four hands.  Just when you called first, I
nearly had Cottle and Lickford down, but you put me off my trip, and
Ramshaw had me over instead."

"All very interesting," said Clapperton, "but you'll have to come sharp
next time or I shall trip you up myself.  Take this note over to Yorke.
Stop while he reads it, and if there's any answer, bring it; if not,
don't wait."

"Can't Cash take it?  We're not nearly finished."

"No.  Cut off, sharp!"

"Awful shame!" growled the messenger to himself, as he departed.  "I
hate Clapperton; he always waits till I'm enjoying myself, and then
routs me out.  I shan't stand it much longer.  What does he want with
Yorke!  Perhaps it's a challenge.  Yes, by the way, very good chance!
I'll see what that cad Wally's got to say about those kids I found in
his room yesterday.  Nice old games he gets up to; Wally's all very well
when he's asleep, or grubbing, or doing impositions, but he's a sight
too artful out of school, like all those Classic kids.  One's as bad as
another."

As if to emphasise this sentiment, a Classic kid at that moment came
violently into collision with Master Percy's waistcoat.

It was Fisher minor, who had once more caught sight in the distance of
the mysterious borrower of his half-crown, and was giving chase.

"Where are you coming to, you kid.  You've nearly smashed a button.
I'll welt you for that."

"I beg your pardon, Wally, I--"

"Wally--what do you mean by calling me Wally?" exclaimed Percy.

"Well, Wheatfield, I beg your pardon; I was in a hurry to catch a fellow
up and I didn't see you."

"Didn't you?  Well, you'll feel me.  Take that."

Fisher minor meekly accepted the cuff, and, full of his half-crown,
essayed to proceed.  But Percy stopped him.

"You're that new kid, Fisher's minor, aren't you?"

It astonished Fisher minor, that the speaker, whom he supposed he had
seen only ten minutes ago, should so soon have forgotten his name.

"Yes, but I say, Wally, I mean Wheatfield--"

"Humph--I suppose you held up both hands for your precious brother
yesterday."

"No, only one.  I was nearly late, though.  I waited an hour at the
gymnasium, you know, and no Modern chaps came out at all."

Percy began to smell rats.

"Waited at the gymnasium, did you?  Who told you to do that?"

"Oh, you know--it was part of the canvassing."

"Oh, _you_ were in that job, were you, my boy?  All serene, I'll--"

"I say," cried Fisher minor, turning pale, "aren't you Wally Wheatfield?
I thought--"

"Me Wally? what do you take me for?  I'll let you know who I am.  You're
a beauty, you are.  Some of our chaps'll tell you who I am, Mr
Canvasser.  Now, look here, you stop there till I come back from
Yorke's.  If you move an inch--whew! you'll find the weather pretty
warm, I can tell you.  Canvassing?  You'll get canvassed, I fancy,
before you grow much taller."

And off stalked the indignant Percy, promising himself a particularly
pleasant afternoon, as soon as his errand to the captain was over.

Yorke was at work, with his lexicon and notebooks on the table, when the
envoy entered.

"Well, is that you or your brother?" inquired he.

"Not my brother, if I know it," said Percy.

"That's not much help.  He says exactly the same when I put the same
question to him."

"He does, does he?  I owe Wally one already, now--"

"Thanks--then you're not Wally.  What do you want?"

"This note.  Clapperton said I was to wait while you read it, and bring
an answer if there was one."

Yorke read the note, and smiled as he did so.  Percy wished he knew what
was in it.  He didn't know Clapperton could make jokes.

"Any answer?" he demanded.

"Yes--there's an answer," said the captain.

He took out a list of names from his pocket, and compared it with that
on Clapperton's letter.  Then he wrote as follows:--

"Dear Clapperton,--The fifteen against Rendlesham is already made up as
follows," (here followed the list).  "You will see it includes six of
the names you sent.  We must play the best team we can; and I think we
shall have it.

"Yours truly,--

"Cecil Yorke."

"There's the answer.  Take it over at once."

"I like his style," growled Percy to himself.  "He don't seem to have a
`please' about him.  Catch me hurrying myself for him; I've got this
precious canvasser to look after."

And he returned at a leisurely pace to the rendezvous.

No Fisher minor was there!

That young gentleman, when left to himself, found himself in a
perspiration of doubt and fear.  He had made a most awkward blunder, and
confessed the delinquencies of his comrades to the very last man they
would wish to know of them.  That was bad enough; but, to make things
worse, he was to be let in for the blame of the whole affair, and, with
Master Percy's assistance, was shortly to experience warm weather among
the Moderns.

Happy thought!  He would not stay where he was.  He would retire, as the
Latin book said, into winter quarters, and entrench himself in the
stronghold of Wally and D'Arcy and Ashby.  If he _was_ to get it hot, he
would sooner get it from them than from the barbarians in Forder's.

With which desperate conclusion, and once more devoutly wishing himself
safe at home, he made tracks, at a rapid walk, to Wally's room.  His
three comrades were all there.

"What's up?" said they as he entered, with agitated face.

"Oh, I say, it's all because you and your brother are so alike.  I met
him just now; and--he's heard about that canvassing, you know, and I
thought you'd like to know."

"You mean to say you blabbed?" said Wally, jumping to his feet.

"It's your fault," said D'Arcy.  "I've made the same mistake myself.
Why can't you grow a moustache or something to distinguish you?"

"Why can't you get your brother to be a Classic! then it wouldn't
matter--either of you would do," suggested Ashby.

Ashby was beginning to feel quite at home in Wakefield's.

"I'll let some of you see if it won't matter," retorted Wally.  "If
they've got wind of that affair the other side, there'll be a fearful
row.  They'll want another election.  Oh, you young idiot!  That comes
of trusting a new kid, that sings comic songs, and parts his hair the
wrong side, with a secret.  D'Arcy's nearly as big an ass as you are
yourself, to trust you."

After this Philippic, Wally felt a little better, and was ready to
consider what had better be done.

"He's bound to come here, you chaps," said he.  "You cut.  Leave him to
me--I'll tackle him."

Fisher minor considered this uncommonly good advice, and obeyed it with
alacrity.  The other two followed less eagerly.  They would have liked
to stay and see the fun.

As Wally expected, his affectionate relative, being baulked of his prey
outside, came to pay a fraternal visit.

"What cheer?" said he.  "I say, have you seen a kid called Fisher minor?
The new kid, you know, that we had a lark with at dinner on first-
night."

"Oh, that chap.  Bless you, he messes in our study.  What about him?"

"I want him.  I want to say something to him."

"I'll tell him."

"All right.  He's come and told you, has he? and you're hiding him?
Never mind; I'll bowl him out, the beauty.  I know all about that little
game of yours, yesterday, you know!"

"What little game?"

"As if you didn't know!  Do you suppose I didn't find five of 'em shut
up here yesterday, being kept out of the way at Elections?"

"Yes; and do you suppose if it hadn't been for me they'd have got into
the Hall at all?  Don't be a beast, Percy, if you can help.  They stayed
here of their own accord.  No one kept them in.  I say, have some
toffee?"

"Got any?"

"Rather.  A new brew this morning.  I say, you can have half of it."

"Thanks, awfully, Wally."

"You see--oh, take more than that--these new kids are such born asses,
they boss everything.  You should have heard that Fisher minor at lamb's
singing the other night--like the toffee?  I say, don't be a sneak about
those chaps.  You'd never have got them in without me.  I backed you up,
and got the door open.  I say--would you like a Turkish stamp?  I've got
one to swop--but you can have it if you like."

"Thanks, old man.  Yes, new kinds are rot.  Well, ta, ta--better make it
up, I suppose.  I say, I shan't have time to write home to-day.  You
write this time, and I'll do the two next week."

"All serene, if you like.  Here, you're leaving one of your bits of
toffee.  Ta, ta, old chappie."

And these great twin brethren, whose infirmity it was always to be fond
of one another when they were together, and to scorn one another when
they were apart, separated in a most amicable fashion.

"Well?" asked the three exiles, putting in their heads as soon as the
enemy had gone.

"Choked him off," said Wally, fanning himself.  "Jolly hard work.  But
he came round."

Percy, meanwhile, having suddenly remembered his errand, hastened back
to the house.  As he did so he observed notices of the fifteen for the
Rendlesham match posted on Wakefield's door, on the school-board, and at
Forder's.  He solaced himself by writing in bold characters the word
"beast" against each of the names which belonged to a Classic boy, and
discovered, when his task was done, that he had inscribed the word nine
times out of fifteen on each notice.  Whereupon he made off at a run to
his senior's.

"Well," said Clapperton, evidently anxious, "didn't I tell you to come
back at once!  Any answer?"

"Yes, this," said Percy, producing the captain's letter.  "I say, Yorke
grinned like anything when he read yours."

"Did he?" replied Clapperton, opening the envelope.

Evidently Yorke in his reply had not been guilty of a joke, for the face
of the Modern captain was dark and scowling as he read it.

"Cool cheek," muttered he.  "Dangle was right, after all.  You can go,
youngster."

"All right.  I say, they've got the fifteen stuck up on the boards--six
of our chaps in it.  We ought to lick them this year."

But as Clapperton did not do him the favour of heeding his observations,
he retired, and tried vainly to collect his scattered forces to conclude
the eight-handed boxing match, which had been so unfeelingly interrupted
an hour ago.

Clapperton, to do him justice, could not deny to himself that the team
selected by the captain was the best fighting fifteen the School could
put into the football field.  But, having advanced his claim for half
numbers, his pride was hurt at finding it almost contemptuously set
aside.  It would never do for him to climb down now.

The Moderns, after all, had a right to have their men in; and he had a
right to assume they were better players than some of the selected
Classics.  It was easy to work himself into a rage, and talk about
favouritism, and abuse of privilege, and all that.  His popularity in
his own house depended on his fighting their battles, and he must do it
now.  So he wrote a reply to Yorke.

"Dear Yorke,--I do not agree with you about the fifteen.  I consider the
men on our side whom you have omitted are better than the three I have
marked on your list.  If we are to make the clubs a success, we ought to
pull together, and let there be no suspicion, however groundless, of
favouritism.

"Yours truly, Geo.  Clapperton."

To this letter, which he sent over by another junior, more expeditious
than his last, he received the following reply:--

"Dear Clapperton,--Sides have nothing to do with it.  If the best
fifteen names were all on your side, I should have to select them.  But
they are not.  The fifteen I have chosen are undoubtedly the best men we
have, and the team most likely to win the match.  I suppose that is what
we play for.

"Yours truly,--

"Cecil Yorke."

This polite correspondence Clapperton laid before his friends.  The
general feeling was that the Moderns were being unfairly and
disrespectfully used.

"It's the old story over again," said Dangle.  "If we don't look after
ourselves, nobody else will."

"At any rate, as long as he's captain, I suppose he has the right to
pick the team," said Fullerton.  "_I_ shouldn't be particularly sorry if
he were to leave me out.  It wouldn't matter to me."

"Who cares whether it matters to you?  It matters to our side," said
Brinkman, "and we oughtn't to stand it."



CHAPTER SIX.

ROLLITT.

Rollitt of Wakefield's was a standing mystery at Fellsgarth.  Though he
had been three years at the school, and worked his way up from the
junior form to one of the first six, no one knew him.  He had no
friends, and did not want any.  He rarely spoke when not obliged to do
so; and when he did, he said either what was unexpected or disagreeable.
He scarcely ever played in the matches, but when he did he played
tremendously.  Although a Classic, he was addicted to scientific
research and long country walks.  His study was a spectacle for
untidiness and grime.  He abjured his privilege of having a fag.  No one
dared to take liberties with him, for he had an arm like an oak branch,
and a back as broad as the door.

All sorts of queer stories were afloat about him.  It was generally
whispered that his father was a common workman, and that the son was
being kept at school by charity.  Any reference to his poverty was the
one way of exciting Rollitt.  But it was too risky an amusement to be
popular.

His absence of mind, however, was his great enemy at school.  Of him the
story was current that once in the Fourth, when summoned to the front to
call-over the register, he called his own name among the rest, and
receiving no reply, looked to his place, and seeing the desk vacant,
marked Rollitt down as absent.  Another time, having gone to his room
after morning school to change into his flannels for cricket, he had
gone to bed by mistake, and slept soundly till call-bell next morning.
"Have you heard Rollitt's last?" came to be the common way of prefacing
any unlikely story at Fellsgarth; and what with fact and fiction, the
hero had come to be quite a mythical celebrity at Fellsgarth.

His thrift was another of his characteristics.  He had never been seen
to spend a penny, unless it was to save twopence.  If fellows had dared,
they would have liked now and then to pay his subscriptions to the
clubs; or even hand on an old pair of cricket shoes or part of the
contents of a hamper for his benefit.  But woe betide them if they ever
tried it!  The only extravagance he had ever been known to commit was
some months ago, when he bought a book of trout-flies, which rumour said
must have cost him as much as an ordinary Classic's pocket-money for a
whole term.

To an impressionable youth like Fisher minor it was only natural that
Rollitt should be an object of awe.  For a day or two after his arrival,
when the stories he had heard were fresh in his memory, the junior was
wont to change his walk to a tip-toe as he passed the queer boy's door.
If ever he met him face to face, he started and quaked like one who has
encountered a ghost or a burglar.  After a week this excess of deference
toned down.  Finding that Rollitt neither hurt nor heeded him, he
abandoned his fears, and, instead of running away, stood and stared at
his man, as if by keeping his eye hard on him he could discover his
mystery.

It was two or three days after Elections that Fisher minor, having
discovered by the absence of everybody from their ordinary haunts that
it was a half-holiday, took it into his head to explore a little way
down the Shargle Valley.  He believed the other fellows had gone up; and
he thought it a little unfriendly that they should have left him in the
lurch.

He was not particularly fond of woods, unless there were nuts in them;
or of rivers, unless there were stones on the banks to shy in.  Still,
it seemed to be half-holiday form at Fellsgarth to go down valleys, so
he went, quite indifferent to the beauties of Nature, and equally
indifferent as to where this walk brought him.

A mile below Fellsgarth, as everybody knows, the Shargle tumbles wildly
into the Shayle, with a great fuss of rapids and cataracts and "narrows"
to celebrate the fact; and a mile further, the united streams flow
tamely out among reeds and gravel islands into Hawkswater.

Fisher minor had nearly reached the junction, and was proceeding to
speculate on the possibility of picking his way among the stones towards
the lake, when he caught sight of a boat in the middle of the rapid
stream.  It was tied somewhat carelessly to the overhanging branch of a
tree, which bent and creaked with every lurch of the boat in the passing
rapids.  Standing in the stern as unconcerned as if he was on an island
in a duck-pond, was Rollitt with his fishing-rod, casting diligently
into the troubled waters.

For the first time the junior enjoyed an uninterrupted view of the
object of his curiosity.  He found it hard to recognise at first in the
eager, sportsmanlike figure, with his animated face, the big shambling
fellow whom he had so often eyed askance in the passages at Wakefield's.
But there was no mistaking the shabby clothes, the powerful arms, the
broad, square back.  Rollitt the sportsman was another creature from
Rollitt the Classic, and Fisher minor was critic enough to see that the
advantage was with the former.

There was no chance of being detected.  Rollitt was far too busy to heed
anything but the six-pounder that struggled and plunged and tore away
with his line to the end of the reel.  Had all Fellsgarth stood
congregated on the banks, he would never have noticed them.

Ah! he was beginning to wind in now, gingerly and artfully, and the
fish, sulking desperately among the stones, was beginning to find his
master.  It was a keen battle between those two.  Now the captive would
dive behind a rock and force the line out a yard or two; now the captor
would coax it on from one hiding-place to the next, and by a cunning
flank movement cut off its retreat.  Then, yielding little by little,
the fish would feign surrender, till just as it seemed within reach,
twang would go the line and the rod bend almost double beneath the
sudden plunge.  Then the patient work would begin again.  The man's
temper was more than a match for that of the victim, and, exhausted and
despondent, the fish would, sooner or later, have to submit to the
inexorable.

How long it might have gone on Fisher could never tell; for once, when
victory seemed on the point of declaring for the angler, and the shining
fins of the fish floundered despairingly almost within his reach, a
downward dash nearly wrenched the rod from his hands and sent him
sprawling on to the thwarts.  The sudden lurch of the boat was too much
for the ill-tied rope, and to Fisher's horror the noose gave way and
sent boat and fisherman spinning down the rapids at five miles an hour.

Rollitt either did not notice the accident or was too engrossed to heed
it.  He still had his fish, though as far off as before, and once more
the tedious task of coaxing him out of his tantrums was to begin over
again.  It was useless to shout.  The roar of the water among the stones
above and over the rocks below was deafening, and Fisher's piping voice
could never make itself heard above it.  He tried to throw a stone, but
its little splash was lost in the hurly-burly of the rapids.  It was
hopeless to expect that Rollitt would see him.  He had no eyes but for
his rod.

The last glimpse Fisher minor caught of him as the boat, side-on,
swirled round the turn towards the falls below, he was standing on the
seat, craning his neck for a glimpse of his prize, and winding in
gingerly on the reel as he did so.  Then he disappeared.

With a groan of panic the small boy started to follow.  The boulders
were big and rough, and it was hard work to go at ordinary rate, still
more to run.  Happily, however, after a few steps he stumbled upon a
path which, though it seemed to lead from the river, would take him, he
calculated, back to it above the falls at the end of the bend in which
the boat was.  It was a tolerable path, and Fisher minor never got over
ground so fast before or after.  A few seconds brought him out of the
wood on to the river-bank, where the stream, deepening and hushing,
gathers itself for its great leap over the falls.

Had the boat already passed, and was he too late!  No; there it came,
sidling along on the swift waters, the angler still at his post, leaning
over with his landing-net, within reach at last of his hard-earned
prize.  What could Fisher minor do!  The stream was fairly narrow, and
the boat, sweeping round the bend, was, if anything, nearer the other
side, where the banks were high.  His one chance was to attract the
anglers attention.  Had that angler been any one but Rollitt, it might
have been easy.

Arming himself with a handful of stones, Fisher minor waited till the
boat came within a few yards.  Then with a great shout he flung with all
his might at the boat.

The sudden fusillade might have been unheeded, had not one stone struck
the angler's hand just as he was manoeuvring his landing-net under the
fish.  In the sudden start he missed his aim and looked up.

"Look out!" screamed Fisher.  "You're adrift!  Catch the branch!"

And he pointed wildly to the branch of an ash which straggled out over
the water just above the fall.

Rollitt took in the situation at last.  He cast a regretful glance at
the fish as it gave its last victorious leap and vanished.  Then,
standing on the gunwale and measuring his distance from the tree, he
jumped.  For a moment Fisher minor thought he had missed; for the branch
yielded and went under with his weight.  But in a moment, just as the
boat with a swoop plunged over the fall, he rose, clutching securely and
hauling himself inch by inch out of the torrent.  To Fisher, who watched
breathlessly, it seemed as if every moment the branch would snap and
send the senior back to his fate.  But it held out bravely and supported
him as he gradually drew himself up and finally perched high and dry
above the water.

Fisher minor's difficulties now began.  Having seen his man safe he
would have liked to run away; for he was not at all sure how Rollitt
would take it.  Besides, he wouldn't much care to be seen by fellows
like Wally or D'Arcy walking back in his company to Fellsgarth.  On the
other hand, it seemed rather low to desert a fellow just when he was
half-drowned and might be hurt.  What had he better do?  Rollitt decided
for him.

He came along the bough to where the boy stood, and dropped to the
ground in front of him.

"Thanks," he said, and held out his hand.

Fisher was horribly alarmed.  The tone in which the word was spoken was
very like that which Giant Blunderbore may have used when dinner was
announced.  However, he summoned up courage to hold out his hand, and
was surprised to find how gently Rollitt grasped it.

"I didn't mean to hurt you with the stones," he said.

"You didn't.  Come and look for the boat, Fisher minor."

"He knows my name then," soliloquised the minor, beginning to recover a
little from his panic.  "I hope nobody will see me."

The boat was found bottom upwards--a wreck, with its side stove in,
entangled in a mass of flotsam and jetsam which had gathered in one of
the side eddies below the waterfall.

"Haul in, Fisher minor," growled Rollitt, surveying the wreck.

With difficulty they got it ashore and turned it right side up.

"Rod, flies, net, all gone," said Rollitt, half angry; "and fish too."

"It was such a beauty, the trout you hooked.  I wish you'd got it.  You
nearly had it too when you had to jump out," ventured Fisher.

Rollitt looked down almost amiably at the speaker.  Had the boy studied
for weeks he could not have made a more conciliatory speech.

"Can't be helped," said the senior.  "Might have been worse.  Thanks
again.  Come and see Mrs Wisdom."

Mrs Wisdom was a decent young widow woman in whom the Fellsgarth boys
felt a considerable interest.  Her husband, late gamekeeper at Shargle
Lodge, had always had a civil word for the young gentlemen, especially
those addicted to sport, by whom he had been looked up to as a universal
authority and ally.  In addition to his duties at the Lodge, which were
very ill paid, he had eked out his slender income by the help of a boat,
which he kept on the lower reach below the falls, and which was, in the
season, considerably patronised by the schoolboys.  When last season he
met his death over one of the cliffs of Hawk's Pike, every one felt
sympathy for the widow and her children, who were thus left homeless and
destitute.  An effort was made, chiefly by the School authorities, to
get her some laundry work, and find her a home in one of the little
cottages on the School farm, near the river; while the boys made it
almost a point of honour never to hire another boat down at the lake if
Mrs Wisdom's was to be had.

Last week the boat had been brought up to the cottage on a cart, to be
repainted for the coming season, and while here Rollitt had begged the
use of it for this particular afternoon to fish from in the upper reach.

"Take care of her, Master Rollitt," said the widow; "she's a'most all
I've got left, except the children.  My John, he did say the upper reach
was no water for boats."

"I'll take care," said Rollitt.

As the two boys now walked slowly, towards the cottage, Fisher minor
could see that his companion's face was working ominously.  He mistook
it for ill-temper at the time, for he did not know Mrs Wisdom's
history, or what the wreck meant to her.

She was at her door as they approached, and as she looked up and saw
their long faces, the poor woman jumped at the truth at once.

"Don't say there's anything wrong with the boat, Master Rollitt.  Don't
tell me that."

Rollitt nodded, almost sternly.

"It went over the fall," said Fisher, feeling that something ought to be
said.  "Rollitt only just got out in time."

"Over the fall!  Then it's smashed," cried she, bursting into tears.
"It was to keep our body and soul together this season.  Now what'll
become of us!  Oh, Master Rollitt, I did think you'd take care of my
boat.  It was all I had left--bar the children.  What'll _they_ do now?"

Rollitt stood by grimly silent till she had had her cry and looked up.

"I'm sorry," said he, in a voice that meant what it said.  "What was it
worth?"

"Worth?  Everything to me."

"What would a new one cost?"

"More than I could pay, or you either.  My John gave five pound for
her--and oh, how we scrimped to save it!  Where's it to come from now!"
and she relapsed again into tears.

Rollitt waited a little longer, but there was nothing more to add; and
presently he signalled Fisher to come away.

He was silent all the way home.  The junior did not dare to speak to
him--scarcely to look up in his face.  Yet it did occur to him that if
any one had a right to be in a bad temper over that afternoon's
proceedings it was Mrs Wisdom, and not Rollitt.

As they neared the school, Fisher minor began to feel dreadfully
compromised by his company.  Rollitt's clothes were wet and muddy; his
hands and face were dirty with his scramble along the tree; his air was
morose and savage, and his stride was such that the junior had to trot a
step or two every few yards to keep up.  What would fellows think of
him!  Suppose Ranger were to see him, or, still worse, the Modern
Wheatfield, or--

At this moment fate solved his problem.  For just ahead of him, turning
the corner of Fowler's Wall, was the cadaverous individual who owed him
half a crown.

"Oh, excuse me, Rollitt," said he, "there's a fellow there I want to
speak to.  Good-bye."

Rollitt did not appear either to hear the words or notice the desertion,
but stalked on till he reached Wakefields'.  The house seemed to be
empty.  Evidently none of the other half-holiday makers had returned.
Study doors stood open; an unearthly silence reigned in Wally's
quarters.  Even the tuck-shop was deserted.

The only person he met was Dangle, the clubs' secretary, who had
penetrated into the enemy's quarter in order to confer with his dear
colleague the treasurer as to calling a committee meeting, and was now
returning unsuccessful.

"Ah, Rollitt," said he, "tell Fisher major, will you, I want to see him
as soon as he comes in.  I'd leave a line for him, but I don't know his
room."

Whether Rollitt heard or not, he had to guess.  At any rate he hardly
felt sanguine that his message would be delivered.

As for Rollitt, he shut himself into his study with a bang, and might
have been heard by any one who took the trouble to listen, pacing up and
down the floor for a long time that evening.  He did not put in an
appearance in the common room, and although Yorke sent to ask him to
tea, he forgot all about the invitation, and even if he had remembered
it, would have forgotten whether he had said Yes or No.

The next morning--Sunday--just as the chapel bell was beginning to ring,
Widow Wisdom was startled by a loud knock at her door.

"Oh, Master Rollitt," said she, and her eyes were red still, "is the
boat safe after all?"

"No; but I've got you another.  Farmer Gay's was for sale on the lake--
I've bought it.  It's yours now."

"Farmer Gay's--mine?  Oh, go on, Master Rollitt, how could _you_ buy a
boat any more than me?  You've no money to spare, I know."

"It's yours--here's the receipt," said the boy, with almost a scowl.

"But, Master Rollitt--"

But Master Rollitt had gone to be in time for chapel.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

TRIAL BY JURY.

Fisher minor's hopes rose high within him as he stalked his debtor
across the School Green.  Three times already he had encountered him,
but fate had stepped in to prevent the collection of his dues.  Now--

He had arrived at this stage when a voice at his side sent a cold shiver
down his back.

"Hullo, kid, got you at last, then?  That's what you call waiting where
I left you, do you?"

"I didn't promise to wait," said Fisher.  "You told me to."

"It's the same thing.  Now you'll come along with me, my beauty."

Had Fisher minor been anything but a raw hand, it might have occurred to
him that it would take Percy Wheatfield all his time to convey a boy
his, Fisher's, size against his will into Forder's house.  But such is
the force of innocence on one side, and authority on the other, that the
new boy laid down his arms, and followed his captor meekly into the
enemy's citadel.  Just as they were entering, a posse of the enemy
appeared on the scene, consisting, among other supporters of the Modern
cause, of Ramshaw, Cottle, Lickford, and Cash.

"Here's a game, Rammy," cried Percy.  "Got him at last!  This is the
villain, this is the murdering, highway forger.  Come on, you kid;
you're in for it."

It did occur to Fisher minor at this juncture that a change of air might
be refreshing.  But it was too late now.  The enemy had him fast.  There
was no getting out of the "warm weather" which had been promised him.

"Come on--we'll have a regular Old Bailey of it," cried Percy.  "Go and
tell the fellows, and collar some witnesses, do you hear; and tell the
hangman he'll be wanted in half an hour."

This promise of judicial dispatch was not consoling to the prisoner, who
had grave doubts as to the impartiality of the tribunal before which he
was to be arraigned.  He wondered if Ashby, or D'Arcy, or any of his
friends would appear among the witnesses.

The trial took place in the room jointly owned by Percy, Ramshaw,
Cottle, and Lickford.  A chair was planted on the bed for the
accommodation of the judge.  The fender was brought out in front of the
chest of drawers for a witness-box; while Rix minimus, who officiated as
jury, sat on a footstool on the table.

As for the prisoner, a dock was provided for him in the form of a wash-
stand, out of which the basin had been removed to make room for his
uneasy person in the vacant hole.

"Now, you chaps," said Percy, who had naturally appointed himself, in
addition to his other offices, "usher of the court", "no larks.  Shut
up.  This is a big job.  This young cad cheated at Elections."

Here the door opened, and Dangle looked in.

"What on earth is all this row?" he said.

"A trial.  I say, Dangle, will you be judge?  It's a Classic kid that
cheated at Elections."

"No, really, I didn't," said Fisher, painfully aware that so far, the
trial was going against him.

Dangle, who fancied something might come of this, was condescending
enough to say he didn't mind playing at judge, if they liked.  Whereat,
amid cheers, he was voted to the chair on the bed, where he sat rather
precariously, and ordered silence in the court.

"Who is the prisoner?"

"Go on, kid, tell 'em your name," said Percy, encouragingly.

"Fisher minor--really I didn't do anything," said the prisoner.

"What's the charge?" said the judge.

"You see, it's this way," said Percy, forgetting to go inside the
fender--"Bam, and Cot, and Lick and I were having a ripping eight-handed
mill in here the other day--"

The prisoner thought over all his crimes, and could recall nothing that
was even remotely connected with an eight-handed mill.

"Cot and Lick had got gloves with no horse-hair in them, you know, so
they lammed it pretty hard; but Ram and I were just scrunching them
up--"

"Crams!  You never got near us.  My nose wasn't hit once," said Cottle.

"No; but we had you in the ribs."

"Under the belt," ejaculated Lickford.

"No, it wasn't--I say, Dangle," said the witness, "it was just on his
waistcoat pocket, and he says that's below the belt.  If he likes to
wear his belt round his neck, of course he gets hit under."

"And if you wear yours round your ankle, there's not much room for your
bread-basket," retorted Cottle.

"And where does Fisher minor come in?" asked the judge; "was he in the
middle of the mill?"

"No.  You see, we were just in the middle of it, and these jolly cheats
were beginning to cave in--"

"Ho, ho!--It would take a lot more than you to make us--"

"Order in the court--go on, Wheatfield."

"There you are--shut up, you chaps--beginning to cave in, when
Clapperton yelled for me, and I had to go."

"Lucky job for you," growled Cottle.  "You wouldn't have been able to go
at all five minutes later."

Whereupon Percy appealed to the court to keep order.

"Fire away," said the judge, "that's nothing to do with the prisoner."

"Oh, hasn't it!--You see, Clapperton wanted me to take a letter to
Yorke.  It must have been a screamer, for Yorke yelled when he read it.
I wanted him to let me finish our mill first, but--"

"Who, Yorke?"

"No, Clapperton.  If there'd been time for another round--"

"Now, then, don't let's have any more of that mill," said the judge.

"That's just what they felt at the time, wasn't it, Lick?" ejaculated
Cottle.

"Did we?--wait till you see, my beauty," said the witness.  "I wish you
wouldn't interrupt.  Oh, so I had to go, and this kid came and caught me
a jolly crack in the stomach."

"Which side of your belt?" inquired Lickford.

"The side you'll get it hot, my boy, next time I catch you," retorted
Percy.

"That'll be under, you bet," said Lickford.

"I didn't mean to hurt you," said the prisoner, who began to hope that
the charge against him was to prove much less serious than he had at
first feared, "I apologise."

"Shut up, don't talk to me--talk to the jury."

As the jury at this moment was struggling manfully to protect his
hassock from the depredations of Cash, who was anxious to investigate
its interior, it was not much use addressing him; so Fisher subsided,
and wished the hole of Percy's wash-stand had been at least so much
easier in diameter as to allow him room to sigh.

"Fire away," said the judge, "we shall be all night at this."

"Well, you see," continued Percy, "it's this way.  I've got a brother,
you know, called Wally, a seedy Classic chap, and up to no end of low
tricks."

"We know him," echoed the court generally.

"Not got such a rummy-shaped waist as his brother, though," whispered
Cottle.

"All right, young Cottle, I'll take it out of you, you'll see."

"What'll you take!  I keep mine outside," replied Cottle.

"Order in the court.  Forge away, Wheatfield."

"I should like to know how I'm to forge away, with these two asses
fooling about down here?  Why can't you raise them to the bench to keep
them quiet?  Oh yes--well, you see, this kid, being new, and green, and
about as high old an idiot as they make them--did you fellows see him on
first-night?  I say! oh my--"

"Look here, Wheatfield," said the judge, sternly, "if you aren't done in
three minutes, I'll call the next witness."

"_He_ wouldn't know anything about it, bless you," said Percy.  "You
see, it was like this--this kid thought I was Wally--what do you think
of that?"

"Cheek.  Jolly rough on Wally," remarked Cash.  The witness looked at
the interrupter, and tried to make out whether his remark was a
compliment or the reverse.  He decided that, as he had only three
minutes left, he had better defer thinking the question out till
afterwards.

"So, of course, he began to swagger about his big brother--"

"No, you asked me--" began the prisoner.

"Shut up," cried Percy, sternly, "how am I to get done in three minutes
if--"

"Only two left now," said Ramshaw.

"Go on, Ram, I've not been a minute yet."

"Yes, you have--sixty-five seconds," said Ramshaw, who held his watch in
his hand.

"I never did believe in those Waterbury turnips, they always stop when
you--oh yes!--swaggered about his big brother and all those fellows over
there, and blabbed out there'd been a regular plant among 'em to rig the
Elections, and he and a lot of 'em had been out canvassing and bagged a
lot of our kids and locked them out, and if it hadn't been for that,
Brinkman would have pulled off the treasurership, and if it hadn't been
for me getting wind of it, and going and fetching them out and bringing
them into Hall in the nick of time, Ranger would have got the
secretaryship, and our side would have been jolly well out of it, and I
mean to say it's a howling swindle--and--hope--there'll--be--a--jolly--
good--row kicked--up--and--you--needn't--say--I--let--out--about it--
because--Wally--asked--me--to--keep--it--mum--and I--said--"

"Time's up," said Ramshaw.  "No side?"

Whereupon the witness stopped short triumphantly, like an athlete who
has just won his race by a neck.

"Come," said the judge, "this is getting interesting.  Who's the next
witness?  Are any of our fellows who were collared here?"

"Rather--young Rix is one."

"Please, Dangle," said the prisoner, "I didn't touch anybody.  I was--
that is--"

"Don't tell crams," said Percy, "it's a bad habit."

"Biz had better go into the witness-box," said the judge.

"What about the jury?" asked that functionary.

"Oh, I'd keep the place warm," volunteered Percy.

Whereupon Rix quitted his hassock, and entered the fender.

"I and Slingsby got nailed by a Classic cad outside our form door.  I
kicked him on the shins, though," said he.

"What Classic cad!"

"Oh, I don't know; a new kid with sandy hair, a horrid lout.  It was
Wally's room we were taken to, and they fooled us about high tea and
that sort of thing.  The place was swarming with our chaps who had been
collared."

"How many?" asked the judge.  "Fifty?"

"Not quite so many; there were four or five."

"Next witness."

Another of the captives gave similar evidence.  After which, Lickford
deposed that he had seen the troop come in to Elections just in time to
vote for Dangle.

"Yes; and who tried to keep us out, I'd like to know?" said Percy.
"There you are, it was _you_!"

"I thought you were on the other side."

"Did you?  I'm very glad Wally gave you a welting for it.  I wish he'd
do it again."

"He hits above the belt, that's how I know him from you," retorted
Lickford.

"Order--what's the prisoner got to say!"

"Crams," said Percy, "it's no use asking him."

"Wait a bit," said the judge.  "Fisher minor, how many of our chaps did
you collar?"

"None, really," said the prisoner.  "I waited by the gymnasium."

"Oh.  What for?"

"Well, I was canvassing."

"What did you wait at the gymnasium for?"  This was awkward.  Fisher
minor found himself getting into a tight corner, tighter even than the
wash-stand.  "I was told to."

"Who by? your brother, I suppose."

"Oh no.  My brother wouldn't do such a thing.  What sort of thing?"

"Why, try to collar fellows off the other side."

"Oh, that was your little game, was it?  Whose idea was it?  Yorke's?"

"Oh no.  It was D'Arcy spoke to me."

"Oh, D'Arcy.  And who spoke to him?  Whose fag is he?"

"Ridgway's."

"And what did Ridgway tell him?"

"I don't think Ridgway told him anything.  The only one I heard speak to
him was Wally."

"Wretched young sneak!" said Percy.  "I'll let Wally know that."

"Wally, he's Yorke's fag.  Who else was there?"

"Only me and Ashby."

"Who does Ashby fag for?"

"My brother, Fisher major."

"I thought you said just now your brother wasn't in it.  You'd better be
careful, youngster."

For the life of him, Fisher minor, in his bewildered state, could not
make out how Ridgway, and Yorke, and Fisher major all seemed to have got
mixed up in the affair.

"You mean to say," said the judge, "you don't know what the orders to
the fags were?"

"No, really--I only heard of it from D'Arcy."

"Your brother never said anything to you direct!"

"Oh no."

"Has he said anything since?"

"Oh no; that is, he only said it was a pity Ranger got beaten."

"Did he say how it happened?"

"He said if the five Modern chaps hadn't turned up at the last moment,
he'd have won."

"Was he angry about it?"

"He was rather in a wax."

"Did he tell you you were an ass?"

"Not that time."

"Another time?"

"Yes, once or twice."

"'Cute chap, your brother," said Percy, aside.

"Shut up, Wheatfield.  Now tell me this, young Fisher major," said
Dangle, with an air of importance which intimidated the prisoner; "what
was it your brother said about the election?"

"It wasn't to me, it was to Ranger, my senior.  He said it was a regular
sell, and he'd have given a lot to see you beaten, because he knew you
couldn't play fair at anything, even if you tried."

Some of the court were rude enough to laugh at this very candid
confession; but the judge himself failed to see any humour in it.

"Oh, that's what he said?  And yet you mean to tell me, after that, that
your brother had nothing to do with trying to get Ranger elected instead
of me?"

"I suppose he had; but I'm sure he didn't mean to do anything fishy, any
more than I did.  I thought it was only a joke."

"You've a nice notion of a joke.  That'll do, you can cut."

"What!" exclaimed Percy, aghast, "aren't you going to hang him?"

"No, I must go.  You can finish the trial yourselves."

As soon as the judge had quitted the bench, Percy mounted it, and
proceeded to sum up.

"You're a nice article, you are," said he, addressing the
prisoner--"what do you mean by sneaking on my young brother, Wally, eh?
You'll get it hot for that, I can tell you.  You're to be hanged, drawn,
and quartered; then you're to be kicked all round our side; then you're
to be ducked in the river; then you're to kneel down and lick every
chap's boots; then you're to be executed; then you're to be burnt alive;
then you're to write out fifty Greek verbs; then you're-- Hallo, who's
there?  Come in! what do you want?"

This abrupt curtailment of the prisoner's doom was occasioned by a
modest tap at the door; probably some belated witness come to add his
evidence to the rest, "Come in, can't you?" repeated Percy.

Whereupon the door opened with a swing, and in rushed Wally, D'Arcy,
Ashby, and three or four other Classic fags.  How they had got wind of
the capture of their man it would be hard to say; but now they had come
to fetch him.

The only thing visible in Percy's room for several minutes was dust--out
of which proceeded yells, and howls, and recriminations which would have
done credit to Pandemonium.  As the cloud rolled by, the Classics might
be seen in a firm phalanx, with their man in the middle, backing on to
the door.  Signs of carnage lay all around.  Lickford was struggling,
head downward, in the wash-stand.  Cash was leaning up in a corner, with
his hand modestly placed over his nose.  Ramshaw and Cottle were engaged
in deadly strife on the floor, each under the fond delusion that the
other was a Classic; while the twin brothers, armed with the better pair
of boxing-gloves, were having a friendly spar in the middle.

It was a victory all along the line for the invaders, and when, a moment
afterwards, they stampeded in a body, and marched with shouts of victory
down the passage, carrying the late prisoner among them, there was no
mistake about the ignominious defeat of the besieged garrison.

That evening Fisher major received a polite note from his colleague, the
secretary.

"Dear Fisher,--It is only right to tell you, that we have discovered
that five of our fellows were prevented from voting at Elections by boys
of your side, apparently acting under orders from their seniors.  We
don't profess to know who were at the bottom of it, but it is a fact
that the election for treasurer would have gone differently but for this
very shady trick.  Clapperton and most of us are not disposed to claim a
new election, now everything is settled, and you have already got in
most of the subscriptions.  But it makes us think that even the virtuous
Classics at Fellsgarth are not absolutely perfect even yet--which is a
pity.

"Yours truly,--

"R.  Dangle."

This pleasant letter, Fisher major, raging, carried to the captain.

Yorke pulled a long face when he read it.

"There's no truth in it, surely?" said he.

"I can't answer for any foolery the juniors have been up to; but apart
from that, it's a sheer lie, and the fellows deserve to be kicked."

"Much better offer them a new election," said the captain.

"What!  They'll get their man in."

"My dear fellow, suppose they do.  You'll still belong to Fellsgarth.
They mustn't have a chance of saying they don't get fair play."

"Well, perhaps you're right.  I don't care twopence about the
treasurership, but I wouldn't like to be beaten by Brinkman."

"I hope you won't be, old man," said the captain.

Next morning, when fellows got up, they found the following notice on
the boards:

"Elections.

"A protest having been handed in against the recent election for
treasurer, notice is given that a fresh election will be held for this
office on Friday next at 3.

"C.Y., Captain."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

ONE TOO MANY.

The seniors of Forder's house were by no means gratified at the
captain's prompt reply to Dangle's accusation.  Indeed, that active and
energetic official had written to Fisher on his own responsibility, and
was now a little hurt to find that his colleagues were half inclined to
repudiate his action.

"Why ever couldn't you speak about the thing before you wrote like
that?" said Clapperton.  "We don't want another election."

"You weren't going to sit down meekly, and let those fellows cheat
without saying a word, were you?" retorted Dangle.

"No--rather not.  But that wasn't the way to do it.  It would have paid
us much better to stand on our dignity."

"In other words," said Fullerton in his melancholy voice, "to have a
grievance, and nurse it well."

"You idiot!" said Clapperton.  "I don't want you to tell me what I
mean."

"I wasn't, I was telling the others," said Fullerton.  "But I agree with
you.  If we have another election and get beaten, we shall be far worse
off than if we were able to take heaven and earth to witness we had been
wronged and were too noble to seek revenge."

If Fullerton could have translated Cicero as well as he translated
Clapperton, what a good Classic he would have been!

"We'd better decline the new election at once," said Brinkman; "it
concerns me more than anybody else; and I agree with Clapperton."

"Why ever not have the new election?" said Dangle.  "We're bound to get
our man in."

"Better decline it first," said Clapperton.  "They'll be glad enough not
to let it go to a trial, I expect."

"Hurrah for injured innocence," said Fullerton; "it's the best paying
thing I know."

The result of this conference was, that Dangle went across after school
next morning to the captain's study where Fisher and Ranger happened to
be calling at the same time.

"Look here, Yorke," said the secretary, adopting his most civil tones,
"you quite misunderstood my letter to Fisher major.  We don't want
another election.  We'd just as soon let things stop as they are.  It
was rough on us, of course; but it divides the offices up more fairly to
have them as they are."

"Thanks," said Yorke, "that's not good enough.  We'll have another
election on Friday."

Dangle's face fell.

"You're fools if you do," said he.  "Those five votes will make all the
difference."

"I don't care if they've five hundred," said Yorke.

"Oh, all right.  You've no message about the cheats who kept our men
out, have you?  Probably they've been promoted to prefects!"

"You took care not to commit yourself to any names; but, as you wrote to
Fisher major, you probably include him as one of the cheats.  If so, I
dare say he'll be glad to discuss the matter with you outside."

"I never said it was he," said Dangle hurriedly.

"But I know who it was."

"Three of our juniors, I understand?" said Yorke.  "The fags of three of
your prefects, yes."

"Fisher," said the captain, "will you fetch Ashby, D'Arcy, and Fisher
minor here?"

The young gentlemen in question were not far away busily engaged in
their joint study, with Wally's assistance, in getting up a stock of
impositions, which should serve as a common fund on which to draw daring
the term.

The idea was D'Arcy's.

"You see," he had said, "we're bound to catch it, some of as, and it's a
jolly fag having to do the lines just when they're wanted.  My notion
is, if we just keep a little stock by us, it'll be awfully handy.  Why,
suppose young Ashby were to get fifty lines at morning school next
Saturday, what about his chance of getting into the 58th fifteen?"

"It's the 6th fifteen, not the 58th," said Ashby.

"Well, there's not much difference."

"It would be jolly awkward," said Ashby.

"Yes; and you always do get potted just when it is jolliest awkward,"
said D'Arcy.  "That's why it's such a tip to have your impots written
before you get them.  Penny wise, pound foolish, you know."

It was not at all clear what this valuable aphorism had to do with the
subject in hand, but it impressed the two new boys considerably.

"And just fancy," continued Wally, driving home his chum's nails with
considerable industry, "just fancy if young Fisher was to have to sit up
here swotting over lines, just when his brother wants his vote in Hall
on Friday!  Why, one vote will make all the difference."

Fisher immediately called for pens, ink, and paper, which Wally and
D'Arcy promptly supplied for him and Ashby, and a scene of unparalleled
industry ensued.  Even D'Arcy insisted on doing his share, which
consisted of drawing niggers in various stages of public execution,
labelled with the names of Clapperton, Dangle, and Brinkman, while Wally
generally superintended and assisted, by playing fives against the wall.

"I say," said he presently, "I suppose it's all out about your precious
canvassing.  That beast Percy has gone and blabbed--after me giving him
toffee too!"

"Never mind," said D'Arcy, "we rather took it out of them, I fancy,
yesterday.  They won't mess about with us in a hurry again."

"No, we did pull that off pretty well.  I'm sorry for our seniors, you
know.  We did our best for them, and we shan't be able to give them the
same leg-up on Friday."

"They ought to be pretty civil to us this term, anyhow," said Wally.

Whereupon Fisher major entered the room.

"Yorke wants D'Arcy, Ashby, and my minor.  Come at once, he's waiting."

"Don't he want me?" said Wally, evidently afraid lest his services were
going to be overlooked.  "I was in it too, you know, Fisher."

"Were you?  Oh, you'd better come too, then."

"Thanks."

And the four, disposing themselves meekly for their coming honours,
followed, single file, into the captain's room.

"Wally wished to come too," explained Fisher.  "He says he was in it."

It perplexed the four heroes to see Dangle there.  What did he want!
And why did the captain look so stern?  And, oh, horrors, what was that
switch on the table for?

Gradually it dawned upon them that the honours in store for them would
fall rather thicker than they were prepared for; and Wally, for one,
wished he had stayed at home.

"You youngsters," said the captain, "it is said that you four behaved
unfairly last election, by keeping out five boys from voting.  Is that
true?"

"Yes," said Ashby.

"They were only Modern kids," explained D'Arcy.

"They wouldn't have got in for the second vote, if it hadn't been for
me," remarked Wally.

"I didn't catch any boys; I couldn't find any," said Fisher minor.

"You see, Yorke," said D'Arcy, who began to realise that he was "boss of
this show," "these two kids are new kids; they oughtn't to be licked;
it's Wally and me."

"Me?" exclaimed the injured Wally; "I like your style, young D'Arcy;
what did _I_ do?"

"All right, it's me then, if you like!"

"I don't mind being in it, to give you a leg-up," said Wally, touched by
the heroism of his friend, "but you might let a chap bowl himself out,
you know.  All right, Yorke, it was me and D'Arcy."

"You should say _I_ and D'Arcy," said Ranger.  "What, were _you_ in it?
Good old--"

"No, you young ass; it's bad grammar to say _me_ and D'Arcy were in it."

"I never knew you were.  It's the first we've heard of it; isn't it, you
chaps?"

The chaps most emphatically agreed that it was.

"Let them be, Ranger," said the captain.  "There'll be time enough for a
grammar lesson after."

"Can't do it to-day, we've got syntax this afternoon," said D'Arcy.

"Now, you youngsters, look here," said the captain.  "You may think
you're very clever; but this sort of thing is cheating, and cheating is
what cads do.  We don't want any of it inside Fellsgarth.  Dangle, here
are the youngsters, and here is the switch; will you lick them, or shall
I?"

"I don't want to lick them.  Let them off," growled Dangle.

The hopes of the culprits rose for a moment, but they went down below
zero when Yorke picked up the cane.

"Wheatfield, come here."

Wally held out his case-hardened hand and received half a dozen cats,
for which it is earing a good deal that they made the recipient dance.

D'Arcy followed, and received his six with meek indifference.  If he had
come first, he would probably have danced.  But as Wally had done that,
he stood firm.

Ashby received three cuts only, which astonished him dreadfully.  It was
his first acquaintance with the cane.  He had never realised before what
a venomous instrument it can be.  Still, he bore it like a man.

Poor Fisher minor had a similar experience.  With his brother looking
on, and his messmates to watch how he bore it, he passed through the
ordeal creditably.  His three "Ohs" varied in cadence from anguish to
surprise, and from surprise to mild expostulation, "Oh!"  "Ehee!"  "Ow!"
after which he felt very pleased, on his brother's account, that he had
not shed tears.

"Now cut," said the captain, "and if you're bowled out in that sort of
thing again, you won't be let off so easy."

"Yorke's a beast," said Wally, when the shattered forces mastered once
more in his study, "but he's a just beast.  He gave it us all hot
alike."

No one disputed the proposition.

"I thought he'd let you new kids off, but he didn't.  It's just as well.
It'll do you good, and make you sit up."

"Jolly sell for that cad Dangle," said D'Arcy.  "He thought Yorke was
going to shirk it."

"He can't say that now," said Ashby, rubbing the palm of his hand up and
down his thigh.

Dangle, meanwhile, had returned to his quarters with the unsatisfactory
report of his mission.

"Bother them!" said Clapperton.  "They take advantage of us whenever
there's a chance.  Now they've offered a new election, and licked the
youngsters, the wind is out of our sails."

"When it comes to the time, I shall decline to be nominated," said
Brinkman.

"That won't be much good.  You'll get some of our fellows voting for you
whether you stand or not.  And if some vote, all must."

"We shall have to see all our men turn up," said Dangle.  "It was a
tight enough shave for the secretaryship."

"Yes.  If we don't carry it now, we'd much better have left it alone.  I
only wish we had."

"There's this to be said," said Dangle, anxious to make the best of his
mistake; "if we do get three officers to their one, there should be no
doubt about our getting properly represented in the fifteen next week."

"Ah--yes; we've still that bone to pick with them."

As the Friday approached, signs of excitement in the coming conquest
were plainly visible.  By tacit agreement the return match between
Percy's adherents and Wally's was postponed till after the election.
Absentees at the last election were diligently looked up by their
respective prefects, and ordered to be in attendance.  Minute
calculations were made by the knowing ones, which decided within one or
two what Brinkman's majority would be.  Even in Wakefield's it was
admitted that the Classic chance was a slender one.

"I wish it was all over," said Fisher major.  "I'm getting sick of these
precious accounts already, and shall be glad to hand them over."

"You won't lose them," said Dalton, "if we can help.  You may have to
vote for yourself, though."

"Catch me.  I've come to the conclusion I wasn't born a treasurer, and I
couldn't conscientiously vote for myself.  I only wish I could back
out."

"You can't do that now," said his friend.  "Bless you, we can keep the
accounts for you.  We couldn't for Brinkman."

When morning school was over on the Friday, there was a general stampede
for the Hall, where boys crowded up for good seats a quarter of an hour
before the time, and enlivened the interval with cheers and
demonstrations for their favourite candidate.  Wally and his friends
were particularly active in their corner, and addressed the meeting
generally in favour of Fisher major.

"Back up, you Classic kids!" shouted Wally, standing on his seat and
apostrophising a group of the Sixth who were standing near.  "Fisher's
your friend!  Won the mile in 4-38; batting average 34.658742.3;
bowling, 12 wickets an innings, and 3 runs an over.  Never tells lies,
or cheats.  Always comes home sober and gives silver in the collection.
He won't waste your money or cook your accounts, like some chaps; and
he'll run the ball up the field, instead of sitting down in the middle
of the scrummage like the Modern chaps to keep warm.  Walk up! walk up!
vote for Fisher and economy!  Hooray for Fisher!  Down with the swell
mob!"

Amid such torrents of eloquence the cause of Fisher major was not likely
to go by default.

Brinkman, too, was not without his champions, who, however, avoided set
speeches and confined themselves to personalities and generalities, such
as--

"Who cheats at Elections?"

"Oh, my hands, what a licking!"

"How now--not me!"  (Here Fisher minor coloured up.) "Look out, you
chaps, there's a Classic cad blushing."

"No! where? won't he want a rest after it!"

"Here comes Brinkman!  Hooray for honesty and fair play!  Hooray for the
Moderns!  Down with Wakefield's kids!  Send 'em home to their mas!"

"Shut up there!  Sit down, you youngsters."

Whereupon there fell a lull.

Fisher minor surveyed the scene with anxious trepidation.  If his
brother were to lose now, it would be his--Fisher minor's--fault.  He
would never be able to hold up his head again.  How he wished he had a
dozen votes!

"Strong muster," he heard some one say near him.  "I expect every
fellow's here."

"Except Rollitt."

"Of, of course," said the other, with a laugh, "no one ever expects
him."

"Why not?" said Fisher minor to himself.  "Why shouldn't Rollitt come
and vote?"

He quite shuddered at the audacity of the idea; and yet, when he looked
up to the front and saw his brother standing there, worried and uneasy,
and realised that in a few minutes he was to stand his ordeal, the
younger brother's courage rose within him, and he edged towards the
door.

In due time Yorke arose.  This time, amid the vociferous cheers of his
own side, a few of the Moderns ventured to mingle howls.  They soon
discovered their mistake, for not even their own side was with them as a
body.  They were hooted down with execrations, and the result of this
interposition was that the captain was cheered for twice the usual time.

"You fellows," said he, as soon as there was silence, "you probably
understand from the notice why this meeting is called.  The last
election was very close, and I am sorry to say there was not fair play.
I am still more sorry to say the offenders were juniors in Wakefield's,"
(terrific yells and hoots from the Moderns), "who ought to have known
better, and who I hope are thoroughly ashamed of themselves," (terrific
cheers, during which, D'Arcy, Wally, and Ashby, who had been standing on
a form, modestly took seats and exchanged defiant signals with the youth
of the Modern side through the chinks of the crowd).  "They have had the
licking they deserve," ("Not half of it!" and laughter), "as Dangle
here, who was present at the time, will testify."  (Dangle scowled at
this reference--What right had the captain to score off him?).  "Of
course under the circumstances it was necessary to have a new election.
Fisher minor here," (tremendous cheers, amidst which the culprits,
considering that the storm had blown over, remounted their perches)
"would scorn to be treasurer of the clubs, and everybody would scorn him
too, if there was any suspicion of foul play about his election.  He has
resigned, like an honest man; and our business is now to elect a
treasurer."  (Cheers and "Vote for Fisher major" from Wally.)

Dalton rose and proposed his friend Fisher major, which Ranger briefly
seconded.

Dangle thereupon proposed Brinkman.  He was sorry the School was being
put to the trouble of this new election.  They hadn't wanted it on their
side; and his friend had been very reluctant to stand.  But of course,
as the election was to take place, he hoped Brinkman would win by a
majority which would show the School what Fellsgarth thought about the
foul play which had been tried on at the last election.

Clapperton seconded the nomination, and assured his friends that, now
the offence had been acknowledged and atoned for by the castigation of
the offenders, they would try to forget it and feel to the other side as
if it had not occurred.

Clapperton, of course, was cheered by his side; and yet his chief
admirers did not feel as proud of him as they would have liked.  His
tone was patronising, and Fellsgarth could not stand being patronised,
even by its captain.

Just as the meeting was settling down for the important business of the
vote, a sensational incident took place.

The door swung open, and in strode Rollitt, with Fisher minor, panting
and pale, at his heels.

The new-comer, heedless of the astonishment caused by his appearance,
strode negligently up to the front where the other prefects were, while
his escort modestly slipped into the arms of his admiring friends.

For a moment the meeting looked on with amused bewilderment.  Then it
suddenly dawned on everybody that this meant a new voter; and terrific
shouts of jubilation went up from the Classics; during which Fisher
minor had his back thumped almost in two.

For once in his life he was a hero!  How he wished his young sisters
could have seen him then!

"Never mind," shouted Percy across the room, "he's bound to vote the
wrong side, or forget to vote at all."

"Order!  Those who vote for Brinkman, hold up your hands."

It was far too serious to humbug now.  Even D'Arcy was grave as he
surveyed the force of the enemy.

Two tellers had been appointed from either side, so that the votes were
counted four times, and the total was not allowed till all were agreed
on the result.

"Brinkman has one hundred and twenty-eight votes."

Loud and long were the cheers which greeted this announcement.  The
knowing ones felt that it practically meant victory for the Moderns, for
it was one more vote than Fisher major had won with last time.

"Now, hands up for Fisher major."

Amid dead silence the Classic hands went up.  Anxious eyes were cast in
Rollitt's direction.  But he, strange to say, was all there, and held up
his hand with the rest.

Fisher major himself at the last moment kept his own hand down.  He had
decided that, if Brinkman voted for himself, he would do the same.
Brinkman had voted.  But, when it came to following his example, the
candidate's pride went on strike, and, whether it lost the election or
not, he declined to vote, Three of the tellers evidently agreed, but the
other had to count again before he made the figure right.  Then the
written paper was handed up to Yorke, "Brinkman 128, Fisher major, 129--
Fisher is elected."



CHAPTER NINE.

CARRIED NEM.  CON.

It must not be supposed that in the midst of the excitement of School
politics the intellectual side of the Fellsgarth juniors, life was being
quite neglected.

On the contrary, they complained that so far from being neglected it was
rather overdone.

The Classic juniors, for instance, suffered many things at the hands of
the cheerful Mr Stratton, who really worked hard to instil into their
opening minds some rudiments of those studies from which their side took
its name.  He took pains to explain not only when a thing was wrong, but
why; and, unlike some of his calling, he devoted his chief attention to
his most backward boys.  This was his great offence in the eyes of
D'Arcy and Wally and some of their fraternity, because under the
arrangement they came in for the special attention alluded to.

"That kid," said Wally, one day, _sotto voce_, as class was proceeding,
"has no more idea of teaching than my hat.  We don't get a chance to
_do_ things ourselves, with him always messing about and looking over.
It's rude to look over.  I mean to mark my exercise _private_ in
future."

"The thing is," said D'Arcy, "if he'd anything original to say it
wouldn't matter so.  But he's always talking the same old rot about
roots.  What's the use of a root, I should like to know, if you can't
bury it?  Eh, kid?"

Fisher minor, to whom the question was addressed, did not know, and
remarked that they didn't teach Latin here the same way as when he
learned from a governess at home.

He regretted this admission almost as soon as he had made it.  For Wally
and D'Arcy immediately got paper and began to draw fancy portraits of
Fisher minor learning Latin under the old _regime_.  The point of these
illustrations was not so much in the figures as in the conversation.
The figures were more or less unlike the originals; at least, Fisher
minor declared that the three isosceles triangles piled by Wally one on
the top of the other were not a bit like his governess; while the plum-
pudding on two sticks, with a little pudding above for a head which
emitted four huge tears, the size of an orange, from either eye, he
regarded as a simple libel on himself.  In one sense the likenesses were
speaking--that is, a gibbous balloon proceeded from the mouth of each
figure, wherein the following dialogue was indicated.
"_Governess_.--`Naughty little Tommy-wommy, didn't know his Latin.
Tommy must have a smack when he goes bye-bye.'  _Tommy_.--`Booh, hoo,
how bow, yow, wow, oh my!  I'll tell my ma!'"

"Bring up that paper, Wheatfield," said Mr Stratton.

Wally made a wild grab at Ashby's exercise, and was proceeding to take
it up when the master stopped him.

"Not that; the other, Wheatfield.  Bring it immediately."

Whereupon Wally with shame had to rejoice Ashby's heart by restoring his
_exercise_, and take up in its place the fancy portrait.

Mr Stratton gazed attentively and critically at this work of art.

"Not at all well done, Wheatfield," said he.  "Sit down at my table here
and draw me thirty copies of it before you leave this room.  Next boy,
go on."

Wally confessed, in later life, that of all the impositions he had had
in the course of his chequered career, none had been more abominable and
wearisome than this.  Oh, how he got to detest that governess and her
ward, and how sickening their talk became before the task was half over!

He sat in that room nearly three hours by the clock, groaning over this
task, and when at last he went in search of Mr Stratton with the
original and thirty copies in his hand, he felt as limp and flabby,
bodily and mentally, as he had ever done in his life.

Mr Stratton, who was having tea in his own room, examined each picture
in turn, and rejected two as not fair copies of the original.

"Do these two again--here," said he.

Wally meekly obeyed.  He had not a kick left in him.

"That's better," said the young master when they were done.  "Now sit
down and have some tea."

It was a solemn meal.  Mr Stratton went quietly on with his meal,
looking up now and then to see that his guest was supplied with bread
and butter and cake and biscuits.  Wally was equally silent.  He felt
sore against the master, but he liked his cake--and the tea was "tip-
top."

The ceremony came to an end about the same time as the cake, and then
Mr Stratton said, pointing to the papers--

"You can put them in the fire now, Wheatfield."

Wally obeyed with grim satisfaction.

"Thanks.  You can go now.  You must come another day and bring your
friends.  Good-bye," and he shook hands.

"I wonder if the chap's all there," said Wally to himself as he limped
over to his quarters.  "He forgot to jaw me.  Wonder if I ought to have
reminded him?  Wonder who he gets his cake from?  I wouldn't care for
many more impots like that.  It was pretty civil of him asking me to
tea, when you come to think of it.  Not sure I sha'n't back him up a bit
this half, and make the chaps do so too.  Wonder if he meant all four of
us to come to tea?  One cake wouldn't go round.  Besides, there's no
saying how that young cad Fisher minor would behave."

This little episode was not without its effect on all the occupants of
Wally's study.  For that young gentleman had not the slightest intention
of turning over a new leaf by himself.  No, bother it; if he was going
to "back up" Stratton, the other fellows would have to back up too.

His one grief was that the stock of impositions stored up by the
industry of the two new boys would not be likely to be wanted now, which
would be wicked waste.  D'Arcy had already occasionally drawn on them,
and one day nearly spoiled the whole arrangement by taking up to Mr
Wakefield fifty lines of Virgil precisely five minutes after they had
been awarded.  Fortunately, however, his hands were exceedingly grimy at
the time, so that Mr Wakefield sent him back for ablutions before he
would communicate with him.  And in the interval he fortunately
discovered his error, and instead of taking up the imposition with his
clean hands, he delighted the master with a knotty inquiry as to one of
the active tenses of the Latin verb "To be."

However, there was no saying when the imposition? might not come in
useful, and meanwhile Ashby and Fisher minor were taken off the job and
ordered to sit up hard with their work for Stratton.

"You know," said Wally, propounding his scheme of moral reform in a
little preliminary speech, "you kids are not sent up here to waste your
time.  No more's D'Arcy."

"How do you know what I was sent up here for?" said D'Arcy.  "It wasn't
to hear your jaw."

"Shut up.  I've just been having tea with Stratton, and we were talking
about you chaps, him and I--I mean he and _me_."

"You didn't get on to English grammar, did you, while you were about
it?" asked Ashby.

"No.  Look here, you chaps, no larks.  It would be rather a spree if we
put our back into it this term, wouldn't it?--beastly sell, you know,
for the others; and rather civil to Stratton too, for asking us to tea."

This last argument was more impressive than the first; and the company
said they supposed they might.

"All right--of course we may have to shut off a lark or two, but unless
we stick-- Hullo, I say, look at those Modern chaps down there punting a
football on our side of the path!  Cheek!  Why, it's Cash and my young
brother.  I say, let's go and drive them off, you fellows."

So the four descended, and a brisk scrimmage ensued, which resulted in
the complete rout of the invaders and the capture of their football.

With which tremendous prize the victorious army returned to quarters and
continued their discussion on moral reform.

"Yes, as I was saying, we shall have to stick to it a bit.  But young
Stratton'll make it worth our while, I fancy."

This hidden allusion to the tea and cake completed the speaker's
argument, and the party forthwith sat down with one ink-pot among them
for preparation.

As it happened, the preparation for the day was an English Essay on
"Your favourite Animal," with special attention to the spelling and the
stops.

It was always a sore point with the Classic juniors to be set an English
lesson.  They could understand being taught Latin, but they considered
they ought to be exempt from writing and spelling their own language.
It wasn't Classics, and they didn't like it, and they oughtn't to be let
in for it.  However, it was no use growling; and as the subject (apart
from the spelling and points) was a congenial one, it seemed a fair
opening for the commencement of their reformed career.

"Look here," said Wally, "don't let's all have the same beast.  I'm
going to have a dog."

"Oh, I wanted a dog," said Fisher minor.

"Can't; he's bagged.  Have a cat?"

"No, I don't like cats--can't I write about a dog too?"

"That would be rot.  Haven't you got the whole of Noah's Ark to pick
from--lions, tigers, ants, hippopotamuses, cobra de capellos?"

"How much?" asked D'Arcy.  "Are they good to eat?"

"Uncommon good.  Will you take cobra de capellos?"

"Ah right," said D'Arcy; "I don't mind."

"I shall take pigs," said Ashby.

"There you are," said Wally; "there's lots left.  You have cows, kid--"

"No--if you won't let me have the dog--"

"Dog in the Wheatfield.  Joke!--laugh, you chaps," interjected D'Arcy.

"I shall have rabbits," said Fisher minor.

"Good old rabbits!  Did you ever keep any?  What were their names?" said
Wally.

"Don't you know?" said Ashby, solemnly.  "One was called `How' and the
other `Now,' weren't they, Fisher minor?"

Whereupon there was mirth at the expense of Fisher minor.

Silence having been procured, D'Arcy began to write.

"`Cobbrer de Capillars is my favrite--' What is it?  Bird, beast, or
fish, Wally?"

"Shut up; bird, of course."

"`Bird,'" continued the essayist.  "`It was in Nore's arck and is good
eating'--that's all I know about it.  Tell us something more, Wally,
there's a good chap."

"Oh, bother.  Don't go disturbing, it spoils everything."

"`The cobberer oart not to be disterbd for it spoyls everything--it
spoyls your close and--' wire in, Wally, what else does it do?  You
might tell a chap."

"What I'll do to you, you cad, and that's pull your nose if you don't
shut up!" retorted Wally, who was busy over his own theme.

"`--and puis yore knows if yore a cad, and don't shut up.'  There,
bother it, that ought to do--twelve lines.  Good enough for him."

"Stuck in the stops?" asked Ashby.

"No; by the way--glad you reminded me--I suppose about every four words,
eh?"

"Something about that," said Ashby.

So D'Arcy sprinkled a few stops judiciously through his copy, and having
done so began to upbraid his partners for their slowness.

Some time was lost in suppressing him, but he was eventually disposed of
under the bath, which was turned upside down to accommodate him and sat
upon by the other three, who were thus able to continue their work in
peace.

Ashby was done first.  He had a congenial subject and wrote _con amore_.

"I shall now say something about the pig which is my favourite annimal--
The pig is a quadruped--Sometimes he is male in which case he is called
a hog.  Sometimes he is female in which case he is called a sow.  Pigs
were rings in their noses and are fond of apple-peal.  Their young are
called litter and are very untidy in their habbits.  Pig's cheek is nice
to eat and pork in season is a treat."  (The writer was very proud of
this little outbreak of poetry.)

"It is preferrablest roast with sage and apple sauce.  I hope I have now
described the pig and told you why he is my favourite."

Fisher minor, on the uncongenial topic of the rabbit, found composition
difficult and punctuation impossible.

"I like rabbits next best to dogs which Wally has taken mine were black
and white one was one and the other the other the white one died first
of snuffles he had lobears the other had the same pequliarity and was
swoped for 2 white mice who eskaped the first-night owing to the size of
the bars there is a kind of rabbit called welsh rabbit that my father is
fond of he says it goes best on toast but I give mine oats and bran it
is a mistake for boys to keep rabbits because first they give them too
much and burst them and then they give them too little and starve them
which is not wright and makes the rabbit skinny to eat if a boy feeds
rabbits well he can get his mother to give him half-a-crown a peace to
make pies of them which is very agreeable so I therefore on this account
consider rabbits favourites."

Before this conclusion had been reached, Wally, with a complacent smile,
had laid down his pen, flattering himself he had made a real good thing
of the dog.  He scorned commonplace language, and, mindful of the
eloquent periods of certain newspapers of his acquaintance, had "let
out" considerably on his favourite theme, which, if the spelling and
punctuation had been as good as the language, would have been a fine
performance.

"The dog is the sublymest, gift of beficient nature to the zografical
Speeches, He has been the confidenshul playmate of; man since before the
creation, he is compounded of the most plezing trays and Generaly ansers
to the endeering name of carlo? if you put his noes at the extremity of
a rat-Hole he: will continue their ad libbitums till he has his man; In
Barberous lands there is an exorable law ordayning muscles but It can be
invaded by a little despeshun and sang frore, as one side of the streat
is not unfrequentedly Outside the rools so that if you take him that
side the politician cannot Run him in which is the wulgar for lagging
him for not [waring Mussles I have] ockasionaly done bobys this Way
myself so that I am convinzed of my voracity, the lesson we learn from
this is that dogs should be treeted kindly and not Injected to unkind
tretemant there? was Ice a dog with the pattrynamie of dognes who lived
in a tub but; tubs are not helthy kenels because, they Roal when you
dont stick brix under, which teechus to be kind `to our' fello animals
and pleze Our masters--I will.  Only include by adding that dogs like
cake? which Shoes how like they are to boys who have kind masters that
they strive to pleas in ewery way in Their incapacity as the righter of
this esay strives ever to endevor."

"That ought to fetch him," said the delighted author, as he dotted his
last "i," and released D'Arcy from under the bath.  "Now I vote we stow
it, and--"

Here there was a loud knock at the door and a senior's voice calling,
"Open the door, you youngsters."

The intruder was Dangle, at sight of whom the backs of our four heroes
went up.

"What do you youngsters mean by bagging one of our balls!" said the
Modern senior.  "Give it me directly."

"It doesn't belong to you," said Wally; "it's my young brother's."

"Do you hear?--give it to me," said Dangle.  "He can fetch it if he
wants it.  You're not our prefect," retorted Wally.

None of the four were more astounded than Wally himself at the audacity
of this speech.  It must have been due to the exhilarating effect of his
tea and essay combined.

Dangle was evidently unprepared for defiance of this sort and became
threatening.

"If you don't give me that ball at once, I'll give the lot of you the
best hiding you ever had in your lives."

"Try it.  We're not going to give up the ball.  There!  If Percy wants
it, let him come for it.  Back up, you chaps."

In a tussle between one big boy and four small ones, the odds are
usually in favour of the former, but Dangle on the present occasion did
not find his task quite as easy as he expected.  The juniors defended
themselves with great tenacity, and although the senior's blows came
home pretty hard, he could only deal with them one at a time.  It got to
be a little humiliating to discover that he would have to fight hard to
gain his end, and his temper evaporated rapidly.

Seizing his opportunity, when Fisher minor, who had been fighting
perhaps the least steadily of the four--yet doggedly enough--was within
reach, he struck out at him wildly, determined to get him disposed of
first.  It was a cruel blow even for a fellow in Dangle's plight.  The
small boy recoiled half-stunned, and uttered a yell which for an instant
startled the bully.

Before Dangle had time to recover, the three survivors were upon him
tooth and nail; at the same moment the door opened again, and Rollitt,
of all persons, stood in the room.

He took in the situation at a glance--the big boy white with rage, his
three assailants with heads down and lips tight, pounding away, and
Fisher minor leaning against the wall with his handkerchief to his face.

"Stop!" said he in a voice which suspended hostilities at once.  Then
turning to Dangle he said--

"Get out."

Bangle glared defiantly, and remained where he was, whereupon Rollitt,
without another word, lifted him in his arms like a child, and slinging
him across his shoulders marched forth.

Wakefield's boys were just trooping up the staircase from the fields,
and at this strange apparition stood still and made a lane for it to
pass.  Dangle's struggles were futile.  The giant, if he was aware of
them, heeded them no more than the kicking of a kitten, and proceeded
deliberately down the stairs, past everybody, juniors, middle-boys,
prefects and all, and walked with his burden out at the door.  There
every one expected the scene would end.

But no.  He walked on sedately across the Green.  Indifferent as to who
saw him or what they said, until he came to the door of Forder's house,
where he entered.  Up the stairs he stumped amid gaping juniors and
menacing middle, boys until he reached his captive's study; where
without ceremony he deposited him, and, not vouchsafing a word, turned
on his heel.

Strangely enough, no one had the presence of mind to challenge him or
demand reparation for the insult to their house.  He neither dawdled nor
hurried.

At the door a bodyguard of Classics had assembled to meet him and escort
him back.  But he had no need of their services.  He made his way
through them as coolly as if he was coming from class; and utterly
indifferent to the rising clamour and shouts behind him--for the Moderns
had by this time recovered breath enough to use their tongues--reached
Wakefield's, where without a word to any one he proceeded to his own
study and shut himself in to continue the scientific experiments which
had only been interrupted a few minutes before by the sudden cry of
distress from the one boy in Fellsgarth to whom he owed the least
obligation.



CHAPTER TEN.

HOW PERCY GOT BACK HIS FOOTBALL.

It was not to be expected that in the present state of party feeling at
Fellsgarth the incident recorded in the last chapter would be confined
to a personal quarrel between Dangle and Rollitt.

If it be true that it takes two to make a quarrel, there was not much to
be feared in the latter respect.  For Rollitt was apparently unaware
that he had done anything calling for general remark, and went his ways
with his customary indifference.

When Dangle, egged on by the indignation of his friends, had gone across
to find him and demand satisfaction, Rollitt had told him to call again
to-morrow, as he was busy.

Dangle therefore called again.

"I've come to ask if you mean to apologise for what you did the other
day?  If you don't--"

"Get out!" said Rollitt, going on with his work.

"--If you don't," continued Dangle, "you'll have to take the
consequences."

"Get out!"

"If you funk it, Rollitt, you'd better say so."

"Get out," said Rollitt, rising slowly to his feet.

Dangle reported, when he got back to his house, that argument had been
hopeless.  Yet he meant to take it out of his adversary some other way.

But if the principals in the quarrel were inactive, their adherents on
either side took care to keep up the feud.

The Modern juniors especially, who felt very sore at the indignity put
upon their house, took up the cudgels very fiercely.  Secretly they
admitted that Dangle had cut rather a poor figure, and that they could
have made a much better job over the impounded football than he had by
his interference.  But that had nothing to do with the conduct of the
enemy, whom they took every opportunity of defying and deriding.

"There go the sneaks," shouted Lickford, as the four Classic juniors
paraded arm in arm across the Green.  "Who got licked by our chap and
had to squeal for a prefect to come and help them?  Oh my--waterspouts!"

"Ya--_how now_--_oh no, not me_!"  Percy shouted for the special benefit
of Fisher minor.

"Look at them!  They daren't come our side.  Cowards!--daren't come on
to our side of the path," chimed in Cash.

"Look at their short legs," called Ramshaw; "only useful for cutting
away when they see a Modern."

"Who got licked on the hands for cheating at Elections, and blubbed like
anything!" put in Cottle.

The four heroes walked on, hearing every word and trying to appear as if
they did not.  They spoke to one another with forced voices and
mechanical smiles, and did their best not to be self-conscious in the
matter of their legs.

But as the defiance grew bolder in proportion as they walked further,
Wally said--

"I say, this is a drop too much.  We can't stand this, eh?"

"No; the cads!" chimed in the other three.

"Tell you what," said Wally, "it wouldn't be a bad joke to have a punt-
about with their football right under their noses, would it?"

"How if they bag it?"

"Bother!--we must chance that."

"I say," said Ashby, "if we could bag their boots first!"

"Can't do that; but we might wait till they're in their class after
breakfast in the morning.  They go in half an hour before us.  I know,
they all sit near the window, and are squinting out at everybody that
passes.  Won't they squirm?"

Next morning therefore at early school, as Percy and Company sat huddled
at their desks in the Modern class-room, biting their pens, groaning
over their sums, and gazing dismally from the window all at the same
time, they had the unspeakable anguish of beholding Wally, D'Arcy,
Ashby, and Fisher minor, with _their_ ball, having a ding-dong game of
punt-about on the sacred Modern grass, under their very eyes.

How these four enjoyed themselves and kicked about the ball, nodding and
kissing their hands all the while at the mortified enemy, who sat like
caged beasts glaring at them through their bars, and gnawing their
fingers in impotent fury!

Sometimes, to add a little relish to the sport, they invited a passing
prefect of their own house to give the ball a punt, and once a neat
drop-kick from D'Arcy left a muddy splotch on the face of the sundial
above border's door.

This was too much; and when, a few minutes later, they caught sight of
the marauders waving to them and calling attention by pantomimic gesture
to the fact that they were carrying off the ball once more to their own
quarters, Percy could contain himself no longer.

"Beasts!" he ejaculated.

"Wheatfield," said Mr Forder, who was in charge of the class, "write me
out fifty lines of the _Paradise Lost_ and a letter of apology in Latin
for using bad language in class."

Percy was conducted home by his friends that morning in a critical
state.  He felt it necessary to kick somebody, and therefore kicked
them; and they, entirely misunderstanding his motives, kicked back.
Consequently, a good deal of time was occupied in arranging matters all
round on a comfortable footing; by the end of which time the fraternity,
though marred in visage, felt generally easier in its mind.

It was no use appealing to the Modern prefects.  They had made a mess of
it so far, and weren't to be trusted.  Nor did the course of lodging a
complaint with Yorke commend itself to the company.  It might be
mistaken for telling tales.  How would it do to--

Here entered Robert, the school porter, with a letter addressed
"Wheatfield minor, Mr Forder's," in a scholarly hand.

"Wheatfield minor," snarled Percy; "that's not me, Bob.  What do you
take me for!  Here, take it over to Wakefield's, and look about for the
dirtiest, ugliest, beastliest kid you can see.  That's Wheatfield
minor."

"You'll be sore to know him by his likeness to Percy," added Cash, by
way of encouragement.

"But Wakefield's ain't Forder's," observed the sage Robert.  "Look what
the envelope says."

True; it must be meant for Percy after all.

"You go and tell him it's like his howling cheek to call me minor,
whoever it is; and when I catch him I'll welt him.  Do you hear?"

"Very good, sir, I'll tell him," said the porter with a grin.

Meanwhile Percy had opened the letter and caught sight of the signature.

He uttered a whistle of amazement.

"Hullo!" he cried, "it's from Stratton!  Whatever--Oh, I say, Bob, it
doesn't matter about that message; do you hear!"

"Won't be no trouble, sir," said the porter.

"If I want to give it I'll do it myself," said Percy.

"Whatever's it about?" said his friends.

"Dear Wheatfield minor,"--(cheek!) read Percy, "Mrs Stratton and I will
be glad to see you and three or four of your friends to tea this evening
at six.  I will arrange with Mr Forder to give you exeats from
preparation."

"Humph!" grunted Percy--"rather civil--I hear he gives rather good grub.
I vote we go."

"May as well.  It gets us off preparation too," said Cash.

"Who said _you_ were in it?" replied Percy.  "Catch me taking you unless
you behave.  I've a good mind to take Clapperton and Brinkman and Dangle
and Fullerton."

This threat reduced the clan to obedience at once, and Percy sat down
presently, and wrote in his most admired style--

"Wheatfield major," (the "major" was heavily underlined) "is much
obliged to Mr Stratton for his invitation to him to tea in his room,
and he will be glad to bring the following of his friends, if he has no
objection, with him; viz.  Lickford, Ramshaw, Cash, and Cottle.  With
kind regards from P.W.;" and sent the note over by the hand of the
youngest of the Modern juniors.

This diversion served for a time to heal the mental ravages of the
morning, and to occupy the attention of the company most of the
afternoon.

"Case of Sunday-go-to-meeting, isn't it?" said lickford.

"Rather.  Mind you tog up well, you chaps; I'm not going to take four
louts out to tea with me, I promise you."

Whereupon ensued great searchings of hearts and wardrobes, to see what
could be done in the way of appropriate decoration.  The invitation came
at an awkward time, for it was Friday afternoon, and Mrs Wisdom rarely
sent home the washing before Saturday.  Consequently it was a work of
some difficulty to muster five clean collars among the party, still less
as many shirt-fronts.

Lickford spent at least an hour over his last Sunday's shirt with ink-
eraser, trying to get it to look tidy; while Cottle, more ingenious,
neatly gummed pieces of white paper over the dirty spots on his.

A great discussion took place as to chokers.  Percy, who had one,
threatened to leave behind any one not similarly adorned.  It was only
by adroit cajolery, and persuading him that he, as personal conductor of
the party, had a right to be sweller than the rest, that he could be
induced to waive the point.

The same argument had to be urged with regard to boots, as none of the
others had patent leathers, which Percy insisted was the first thing any
one looked to see if you had on at a party.  It was urged that as most
of the time would be spent with the feet under the table, this, though
sound in law, was not in the present case of such vital importance in
equity.  Objection waived once more.

Finally, when all was ready, Percy held a full-dress parade of his
forces, and looked each of them up and down as minutely and critically
as an officer of the Guards inspecting his company.  He objected to Cash
wearing white gloves, as he had none himself, and he nearly cashiered
Cottle for having a coloured handkerchief, because he himself had a
brand-new white one.  At length, however, all these little details were
arranged, and as the school clock began to chime the hour the order to
march was given, and the company proceeded at the double to Mr
Stratton's house.

Mr Stratton was more or less of a favourite with both sides at
Fellsgarth.  He had a small house, in which were representatives of both
factions, but most of them of the quieter sort, who, being obliged to
live together under one roof, did not see so much to quarrel about out
of doors.  Mr Stratton, too, took the juniors' divisions of each
school, and so kept fairly well in touch with both.  Add to this, that
he was a good all round athlete, that he had a serene and cheerful
temper, and, what is of scarcely less importance, a charming young wife,
and you have several very good reasons why he was one of the most
popular masters at Fellsgarth.  The juniors, on the whole, appreciated
him.  When he was down on them they forgave him on account of his youth,
and when he complained that he could not get them to understand his
precepts, they asked one another whose fault was that.  Occasionally he
condoned all his offences by an act of hospitality, and for once in a
way betrayed that he recognised the merits of a select few of his pupils
by asking them to tea.

This was evidently the ease now, and as our five young Moderns trotted
across the Green, they wished their enemies in Wakefield's could only
have looked out and witnessed their triumph.

Little they dreamed that at that moment Wally, Ashby, D'Arcy, and Fisher
minor, resplendent in shirts and collars fresh from the wash, with their
eight hands encased in white kid and their eight feet in patent leather,
were standing about in Mr Stratton's drawing-room, wondering who on
earth it was whose non-arrival was preventing the ringing of the tea-
bell.

When presently Percy and his party were ushered in, and discovered who
were their fellow-guests, it did some credit to their breeding that they
remembered to go up and shake hands with Mr and Mrs Stratton, and did
not immediately fly at the enemy's throat.  The enemy, however, were
equally taken aback, and were fully entitled to half the credit for the
self-control with which the discovery was received.

"There's no need to introduce you to one another, I'm sure," said Mr
Stratton.  "By the way, Wheatfield--you I mean," pointing to Percy, "I
must apologise for calling you minor.  It was very kind of you to put me
right."

Wally glared up at this, and would have liked to put the matter right
there and then, but Mrs Stratton said--

"It isn't fair to number twins at all, is it?"

"Unless," suggested D'Arcy, blushing to find himself talking, "unless
you reckon them half each."

This only mended matters to the extent of raising a laugh at the expense
of the twins, who felt mutually uncomfortable.

The tea-bell, however, relieved the tension, "Come," said the hostess.
"You must take one another in.  No, that won't do, all Mr Wakefield's
boys together.  Two of you come this side--that's right; and Cottle and
Ramshaw, you go over there.  Now, you're beautifully sorted.  Edward,
dear, you mustn't talk till you've handed round the tea-cake to our
guests.  Lickford, do you take cream and sugar?  And you too, twins?  Oh
really, dear, you don't call those slices, do you?  Do let Ashby cut up
the cake; I'm sure he knows better than you what a slice is; don't you,
Ashby?"

Apparently Ashby did; and the party, thus genially thrown together and
set to work, soon began, to experience the balmy influences of a
convivial high tea.

Very little was spoken at first except by Mr Stratton, who gave a brief
account of a University cricket match in which he had once played--a
narrative which served as a most soothing refrain to the silent exercise
in which his listeners were engaged.  Presently a few questions were put
in by the boys, followed by a few observations which gradually, by the
adroit piloting of the host, loyally backed up by his wife, developed
into a discussion on the use and abuse of "third man up" in modern
cricket.  After this knotty point was disposed of the talk grew more
general, and Wally became aware that his brother was handing him the
apricot jam.

The act, simple in itself, meant a great deal to Wally.  He liked
apricot jam, and had not been able to get at it all the evening.  As he
now helped himself he admitted to himself that Percy was not quite such
a lout as he had occasionally thought him.

"Thanks awfully, Percy.  Did you like that toffee I gave you the other
day?"

"Rather.  It was spiffing," said Percy.  "I say, I don't mind writing
home this week if you like."

"Oh, don't you grind; I will."

"Really I don't mind."

"No more do I.  I say, can you reach the butter?"

"Rather.  Better rinse this dish up here between us.  There's another
down there."

Similar scenes of reconciliation were taking place elsewhere.  Cottle
was asking Ashby his riddle; D'Arcy was laying down the law in the
admiring hearing of Ramshaw and Lickford as to the cooking of sprats on
the shovel; while Fisher minor was telling the sympathetic Mrs Stratton
all about the people at home.  Mr Stratton was wise enough not to
disturb this state of affairs by talk of his own.  When, however, the
meal began to flag, and his guests one by one abandoned the attack, he
proposed an adjournment to the drawing-room.

"I want the advice of you youngsters," said he presently, "about
something I dare say you all know something about.  I mean the old
School shop."

The party looked guilty.  Didn't they know the tuck-shop?

"It seems to me," said Mr Stratton, "it's rather in a bad way just now;
don't you think so?  Robert hasn't time to look after it, and wants to
give it up.  He says it doesn't pay; and really some of his things
aren't particularly nice.  I went and had a jam tart there this morning.
It was like shoe-leather; and the jam was almost invisible."

Wally laughed.  He knew those tarts well.

"I think it would be a pity if it was given up; don't you?  We all want
a little grub now and then; besides, it's an old School institution."

"Robert charges three-halfpence a-piece for those tarts," said D'Arcy.

"Yes--think of that.  I've no doubt you could get them for half the
price at Penchurch.  What I was thinking was, why shouldn't some of us
carry on the shop ourselves?"

The boys opened their eyes.  The idea of carrying on a tuck-shop on
their own account opened a vista of such endless possibilities, that
they were quite startled.

"It ought to be easy enough if we manage properly," said Mr Stratton.
"Suppose, now, we who are here were to form a committee and decide to
run the shop, how should we begin?"

"It depends on what Robert left behind," said Percy.

"Oh, we wouldn't take over any of his stuff.  No, the first thing would
be to reckon up how much we should want to start with, and either club
together or get some one to advance it.  How many tarts do you suppose
are sold a day?"

"Hundreds," said Ashby.

"Well, according to Robert, about eighty.  But say one hundred.  That at
a penny each would be about 8 shillings for tarts.  Then the ginger-
beer.  Would twenty bottles do?  That would be 3 shillings 4 pence,
supposing they cost 2 pence each.  That's 11 shillings 4 pence.  What
next?  Apples?  Suppose we put them down at 2 shillings 6 pence--13
shillings 10 pence.  Sweets?  Well, say 2 shillings 6 pence more--16
shillings 4 pence.  Nuts 1 shilling--17 shillings 4 pence.  It mounts
up, you see.  We ought at least to have 25 or 30 shillings to start
with.  Well, I happen to know somebody who would lend that amount to the
shareholders for a little time if we should want it.  Now suppose we've
got our money.  We ought to send to some of the best shops and market
people in the town to see what we could get our things for.  As it
happens, Mrs Stratton when she was in Penchurch this morning did
inquire, and this is her report.  The tarts that we should sell for a
penny we could get for three farthings each, so that on a hundred tarts
we should make a profit of 2 shillings 1 penny.  And the confectioner
would send his cart up every day with fresh tarts of different kinds of
jam, and take back yesterday's stale ones at half-price.  That would be
a great improvement, wouldn't it?"

"Rather," said everybody.

"Then the ginger-beer.  Would you believe it, if we undertake to take
not less than twelve bottles a day daring the half we can get them for a
penny each, and might sell them for three-halfpence.  That would make a
great increase in the demand, I fancy, and every bottle we can sell, we
make a dear halfpenny profit.  The same with the sweets.  You can get
most sorts for 9 or 10 pence a pound, and if we sell at a penny an
ounce, you see we get 7 or 8 pence profit.  I should vote for only
getting the best kind of sweets, and making rather less profit than
that.  At any rate, you see, if we are careful, we ought pretty soon to
be able to pay back what we owe, and after providing for the expense of
a person to mind the shop and do the selling, put by a little week by
week, which will go to the School clubs or anything else the fellows
decide.  What do you think of the plan?"

They all thought it would be magnificent.

"I see no reason why you youngsters should not manage it splendidly by
yourselves at soon as you get once started.  You'll have to draw up
strict rules, of course, for managing the shop, and make up the
accounts; and look out sharp that you aren't selling anything at a loss.
Remember, the cheaper you can sell (provided you get a fair profit),
the more customers you'll have.  And the better your stuff is, the more
it will be liked.  Mrs Stratton says she will act as banker, and take
care of the money at the end of each day and pay out what you want for
stores.  Don't say anything about it out of doors at present; talk it
over among yourselves daring the week, and if you think it will work,
tell me, and we'll have a regular business meeting to settle
preliminaries.  Now suppose we have a game of crambo?"

When the party broke up, Moderns and Classics strolled affectionately
across the Green arm in arm, deep in confabulation as to the projected
shop.

When they reached the door of Wakefield's, Wally said, "By the way, have
any of you chaps lost a football?  There's one kicking about in our
room.  Hang outside and I'll chuck it to you out of the window."

Which he did.  And the ball proved to be the very one the Moderns had
lost a week ago!  How curious!



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

FELLSGARTH VERSUS RENDLESHAM.

How it came that Rollitt played, after all, in the Rendlesham match, no
one could properly understand.

His name was not down on the original list.  Yorke _had_ given up asking
him to play, as he always either accused himself, or, what was worse,
promised to come and failed at the last moment.

After the defeat of the Moderns at the second election, the question of
the selection of the fifteen had been allowed to drop; and those who
were keen on victory hoped no further difficulty would arise.  Two days
before the match, however, Brinkman was unlucky enough to hurt his foot,
and to his great mortification was forbidden by the doctor to play.  The
news of his accident caused general consternation, as he was known to be
a good forward and a useful man in a scrimmage.  Clapperton increased
the difficulty by coming over to say that as Brinkman was laid up, he
had arranged for Corder to play instead.

Corder, as it happened, was a Modern senior, a small fellow, and reputed
an indifferent player.

"He wouldn't do at all," said Yorke, decisively.

"Why not?  Surely we've got a right to find a substitute for our own
man," said Clapperton, testily.

"What do you mean by your own man?  Who cares twopence whose man he is,
as long as he plays up?  The fifteen are Fellsgarth men, and no more
yours than they are mine."

"If they were as much mine as yours no one would complain."

"You mean to say that if you were captain of the fifteen you'd put
Corder in the team for a first-class match?"

"Why not?  There are plenty worse than he."

"There are so many better, that he is out of the question."

"That means only five of our men are to play against ten of yours."

"You're talking rot, Clapperton, and you know it.  If I'm captain, I'll
choose my own team.  If you don't like it, or if the best fifteen men in
the school aren't in it, you are welcome to complain.  I hope you will."

"It strikes me pretty forcibly our fellows won't fancy being snubbed
like this.  It would be a bad job if they showed as much on the day of
the match."

"It would be a bad job--for them," said the captain.

When Yorke repeated this disagreeable conversation to his friends later
on, they pulled long faces.

"I suppose he means they don't intend to play up," said Dalton.

"If that's so," said Fisher major, "why not cut them all out and make up
the fifteen of fellows you can depend on?"

"That wouldn't do," said Yorke.  "I expect when the time comes they'll
play up all right.  After all, Clapperton and Fullerton are two of our
best men."

"But what about the vacant place?"

"I've four or five names all better than Corder," said the captain, "but
none of them as good as Brinkman."

The company generally, it is to be feared, did not lament as honestly as
Yorke did, the accident to their rival.  They did not profess to
rejoice, of course; still they bore the blow with equanimity.

Next morning, to the astonishment of everybody, the notice board
contained an abrupt announcement in the captain's hand, that in
consequence of Brinkman's inability to play, Rollitt would take his
place in the fifteen.

Yorke himself could not account for this sudden act of patriotism.
Rollitt, he said, had looked into his room last night at bedtime and
said--

"I'll play on Saturday," and vanished.

Fisher minor was perhaps, of all persons, better able to explain the
mystery than any one else.  He had overheard in Ranger's study a general
lamentation about the prospects for Saturday, and a wish expressed by
his brother that Rollitt were not so unsociable and undependable.
Everybody agreed it was utterly useless to ask him to play, and that
they would have to get a second-rate man to fill the empty place, and so
most probably lose the match.

Fisher minor heard all this, and when presently, on his way to his own
den, he passed Rollitt's door, a tremendous resolution seized him to
take upon himself the duty of ambassador extraordinary for the School.
Rollitt appeared to owe him no grudge for throwing stones the other day,
and had already come to his relief handsomely at the time of the second
election and in the affair with Dangle.  On the whole, Fisher minor
thought he might venture.

Rollitt was reading hard by the light of one small candle when he
entered.

"Please, Rollitt," said the boy, "would you ever mind playing for the
School on Saturday?"

Rollitt looked up in such evident alarm that Fisher major put his hand
on the latch of the door, and made ready to bolt.

"I'll see--get out," said Rollitt.

And Fisher minor did get out.

It was really too absurd to suppose that Rollitt was going to play in
the fifteen to oblige Fisher minor.  So at least thought that young
gentleman, and remained discreetly silent about his interview, hoping
devoutly no one would hear of it.

The joy of the Classics was almost equal to the fury of the Moderns.
The latter could not deny that Rollitt was a host in himself, and worth
a dozen Corders.  Yet it galled them to see him quietly put in the
vacant place, and to hear the jubilation on every hand.

For Rollitt was the fellow who had publicly insulted the Moderns in the
person of Dangle; and not only that, but--poor and shabby as he was--had
shown himself utterly indifferent to their indignation and contemptuous
of their threats.

"Why," Dangle said, "the fellow's a pauper! he can't even pay for his
clubs!  His father's a common fellow, I'm told."

"Yes, and I heard," said Brinkman, "his fees up here are paid for him.
Why, we might just as well have Bob in the fifteen."

"A jolly sight better.  Bob knows how to be civil."

"It is a crime to be poor," said Fullerton.  "I hope I shall never
commit it."

"Well," said Clapperton, ignoring this bit of sarcasm, "if he was well
enough off to buy a cake of soap once a term, it wouldn't be so bad.  I
believe when he wants a wash he goes down to Mrs Wisdom and borrows a
bit of hers."

"By the way, that reminds me," said Dangle; "did you fellows ever hear
about Mrs Wisdom's boat?  The lout had it out the other day in the
rapids, and let it go over the falls, and it got smashed up."

"What!" exclaimed everybody.

"Do you mean," said Brinkman, "poor Widow Wisdom has lost her boat owing
to that cad?  Why, she'll be ruined?  However is she to get a new one?"

"That's the extraordinary thing," said Dangle.  "It was she told me
about it.  She says that Rollitt went straight away to the lake and
bought her a boat that was for sale there; and she's got it now down in
the lower reach; and it's a better one than the other."

"What!" exclaimed Clapperton, incredulously; "Rollitt bought a new boat!
Bosh!"

"It was a second-hand one for sale cheap.  But it cost five pounds.  She
showed me the receipt."

"Stuff and nonsense.  She was gammoning you," said Clapperton.

"All right," said Dangle, snappishly; "you're not obliged to believe it
unless you like."

And there the conversation ended.

The day of the great match came at last.  The Rendlesham men, who had to
come from a distance, were not due till one o'clock, and, as may be
imagined, the interval was peculiarly trying to some of the inhabitants
of Fellsgarth.  The farce of morning school was an ordeal alike to
masters and boys.  If gazing up at the clouds could bring down the rain,
a deluge should have fallen before 10 a.m.  As the hour approached the
impatience rose to fever heat.  It was the first match of the season.
For the last three years the two teams had met in deadly combat, and
each time the match had ended in a draw, with not one goal kicked on
either side.  Victory or defeat to-day would be a crisis in the history
of Fellsgarth.  Woe betide the man who missed a point or blundered a
kick!

Percy and his friends put on flannels in honour of the occasion and
sallied out an hour before the time to look at the ground and inspect
the new goal and flag posts which Fisher major, as the first act of his
treasurership, had ordered for the School.

It disgusted them somewhat to find that Wally and his friends--also in
flannels--were on the spot before them, and, having surveyed the new
acquisitions, had calmly bagged the four front central seats in the
pavilion reserved by courtesy for the head-master and his ladies.

Since the tea at Mr Stratton's, the juniors had abated somewhat of
their immemorial feud, although the relations were still occasionally
subject to tension.

"Hullo, you kids," cried Wally, as his brother approached, "how do you
do?  Pretty well this morning?  That's right--so are we.  Have a seat?
Plenty of room in the second row."

Considering that no one had yet put in an appearance, this was strictly
correct.  Yet it did not please the Modern juniors.

"You'll get jolly well turned out when Ringwood comes," said Percy.
"Come on, you chaps," added he to his own friends.  "What's the use of
sitting on a bench like schoolboys an hour before the time?  Let's have
a trot."

"Mind you don't dirty your white bags," cried D'Arcy.

"No, we might be mistaken for Classic kids if we did," shouted Cottle.
"Ha, ha!"

Whereupon, and not before time, the friends parted for a while.

When Percy and Co. returned, they found the pavilion was filling up,
and, greatly to their delight, the front row was empty.  The enemy had
been cleared out; and serve them right.

"Come on, you chaps," said Lickford; "don't let's get stuck in there.
Come over to the oak tree, and get up there.  It's the best view in the
field."

Alas! when they got to the oak tree, four friendly voices hailed them
from among the leaves.

"How are you, Modern kids?  There's a ripping view up here.  Have an
acorn?  Mind your eye.  Sorry we're full up.  Plenty of room up the
poplar tree."

The Moderns scorned to reply, and walked back sulkily to the pavilion,
not without parting greetings from their friends up the oak tree, and
squatted themselves on the steps.

The place was filling up now.  Mrs Stratton was there with some
visitors.  All the little Wakefields were there, of course--"minor,
minimus, and minimissima," as they were called--uttering war-whoops in
honour of their house.  And there was a knot of Rendlesham fellows
talking among themselves and generally taking stock of the Fellsgarth
form.  Mr Stratton, in civilian dress, as became the umpire, was the
first representative of the School to show up on the grass.  A distant
cheer from the top of the oak tree hailed his arrival, and louder cheers
still from the steps of the pavilion indicated that the popular master
was not the private property of any faction in Fellsgarth.

To Fisher minor it was amazing how Mr Stratton could talk and laugh as
pleasantly as he did with the umpire for the other side.  He felt sure
_he_ could not have done it himself.

Suddenly it occurred to Fisher minor, by what connection of ideas he
could not tell, what an awful thing it would be if Rollitt were to
forget about the match.  The horror of the idea, which had all the
weight of a presentiment, sent the colour from his cheeks, and without a
word to anybody he slid down the tree and began to run with all his
might towards the school.

"What's the row--collywobbles!" asked D'Arcy.

But no one was in a position to answer.  A fusillade of acorns from the
tree, and derisive compliments of "Well run!"  "Bravo, Short-legs!" from
the pavilion steps, greeted the runner as he passed that warm corner.
He didn't care.  Even the captain and his own brother, whom he met going
down to the field of battle, did not divert him.  He rushed panting up
the stairs and into Rollitt's study.

Rollitt was sitting at the table taking observations of a crumb of bread
through a microscope.

"Rollitt," gasped the boy, "the match!  It's just beginning, and you
promised to play.  Do come, or we shall be licked!"

Rollitt took a further look at the crumb and then got up.

"I forgot," said he; "come on, Fisher minor."

"Aren't you going to put on flannels?" asked the boy.

"Why!" said Rollitt roughly, stalking out.

Fisher minor wondered if the reason was that he had none.  But he was
too full of his mission to trouble about that, and, keeping his prize
well in sight, for fear he should go astray, had the satisfaction of
seeing him arrive on the field of battle just as the opposing forces
were taking their places, and just as the Classic seniors were inwardly
calling themselves fools for having depended for a moment on a hopeless
fellow of this sort.

The Classic juniors felt a good deal compromised by the champion's
shabby cloth trousers and flannel shirt, but they cheered lustily all
the same, while the Moderns, having expressed their indignation to one
another, relieved their feelings by laughing.

But a moment after, everybody forgot everything but the match.

The Rendlesham men looked very trim and dangerous in their black and
white uniform; and when presently their captain led off with a
magnificent place-kick which flew almost into the School lines, Classics
and Moderns forgot their differences and squirmed with a common
foreboding.  Fullerton promptly returned the ball into _medias res_, and
the usual inaugural scrimmage ensued.  To the knowing ones, who judged
from little things, it seemed that the present match was likely to be as
even as any of its predecessors.  The forwards were about equally
weighted, and the quarter and half-backs who hovered outside seemed
equally alert and light-footed.

Presently the ball squeezed out on the School side and gave Ranger the
first chance of a ran.  He used it well, and with Fisher major and Yorke
on his flanks got well past the Rendlesham forwards amid loud cheers
from the oak tree.  But the enemy's quarter-back pinned him in a moment;
yet not before he had passed the ball neatly to Fisher on his left.
Fisher struggled on a few yards further with the captain and Dangle
backing up, but had to relinquish the ball to the former before he could
reach the half-backs.  Yorke, always wary and cool-headed, had measured
the forces against him, and as soon as he had the ball, ran back a step
or two, to break the ugly rush of two of the enemy who were nearest, and
then with a sweep distanced them, and charging through their half-backs
made a dash for the goal.  For a moment friend and foe held their
breath.  He looked like doing it.  But in his _detour_ he had given time
for Blackstone, the Rendlesham fast runner, to get under way and sweep
down to meet him just as he reeled out of the clutches of the half-
backs.  Next moment Yorke was down, and Dangle was not there to pick up
the ball.

This rush served pretty well to exhibit the strong and weak points of
either side.  It was evident, for instance, that both Ranger and Yorke
were men to be marked by the other side, and that Dangle, on the
contrary, was playing slack.

A series of scrimmages followed, in the midst of which the ball
gravitated back to the centre of the field.  Runs were attempted on
either side; once or twice the ball went out into touch, and once or
twice a drop-kick sent it flying over the forwards' heads.  But it came
back inevitably, so that after twenty minutes' hard play it lay in
almost the identical spot from which it had first been kicked off.

The onlookers began to feel a little depressed.  It was not to be a
walk-over for the School, at any rate.  Indeed, it seemed doubtful
whether from the last and toughest of these scrimmages the ball would
ever emerge again to the light of day.

Suddenly, however; it become evident that the _status quo_ was about to
give way, and that the fortunes of either side were going to take a new
turn.  No one in the game, still less outside, could at first tell what
had happened.  Then it occurred to Yorke and one or two others that
Rollitt, who had hitherto been playing listlessly and sleepily, was
waking up.  His head, high above his fellows, was seen violently
agitated in the middle of the scrimmage, and presently it struggled
forward till it came to where the ball lay.  A moment later, the
Rendlesham side of the scrimmage showed signs of breaking, and a moment
after that Rollitt, quickly picking up the ball, burst through both
friend and foe.

"Back up, Dangle! back up, Ranger!" shouted Yorke.

"Look out behind!" cried the Rendlesham captain.

Rollitt carried that ball pretty much as he had carried Dangle a day or
two before, almost contemptuously, indifferent as to who opposed him or
who got in his way.  The only difference was that whereas he then
walked, now he ran.  And when Rollitt chose to run, as Fellsgarth knew,
even Ranger, the swift-footed, was not in it.

The enemy's forwards were shaken off, and their quarter-backs distanced.
The half-backs closed on him with a simultaneous charge that made him
reel.  But he kept his feet better than they, and staggered on with one
of them hanging to his arm.

"Look out in goal!" shouted the Rendlesham men.

"Back up, you fellows!" cried Yorke.

In his struggle with the man on his arm, Rollitt lost pace enough to
enable Blackstone to overtake and make a wild dash, not at the man, but
the ball.  The onslaught was partly successful, for the ball fell.
Dangle, who was close behind, made an attempt to pick it up, but before
he could do so, Rollitt, like a hound momentarily checked, dashed back
to recover it himself, knocking over, as he did so, both Dangle and
Blackstone.

He had it again, and once more was off, this time with only the enemy's
back to intercept him.  The back did his best, and sacrificed himself
nobly for his side, but he was no match for the Fellsgarth giant, who
simply rode over him, and followed by a mighty roar of cheering from the
onlookers, carried the ball behind the goals, touching it down with
almost fastidious precision exactly half-way between the poles.

A minute later and Yorke, with one of his beautifully neat "places," had
sent the ball spinning over the bar, as unmistakable a goal as the
School had ever kicked.

The cheers which followed this exploit were completely lost on Rollitt,
who, having completed his run, dawdled back to his fellow-forwards, and
had not even the curiosity to watch the issue of the captain's kick.

As the sides changed ends, Dangle, with a black face, came up to him.

"You knocked me over on purpose then, you cad, I could see it!" snarled
he.

"Get out!" said Rollitt, shouldering the speaker aside.

This was too much for Dangle.  Full of rage, he went to Yorke.

"I don't mean to stand this, Yorke.  Rollitt--"

"Shut up!" said the captain.  "Spread out, you fellows, and be ready.
Go to your place, Dangle."

Dangle sullenly obeyed.

"I'll let you see if I'm to be insulted and made a fool of before all
the school," growled he.  "Catch me bothering myself any more."

As if to give him an opportunity of enforcing his protest, the kick-off
of the losing side fell close at his feet.  He picked it up, and for a
moment the sporting instinct prompted him to make a rush.  But he caught
sight of Yorke and Rollitt both looking his way, and the bad blood in
him prevailed.  He deliberately sent the ball with a little side-kick
into Blackstone's hands, who, running forward a step, sent it, with a
mighty drop, right over the School line.  It almost grazed the goal post
as it passed, and it was all Fullerton could do to save the touch-down
before the whole advance guard of the enemy were upon him.

The whole thing had been so wilfully done that there was no mistaking
its meaning.

"Hold the ball!" cried Yorke, as the side ranged out for the kick-off.
"Dangle, get off the field."

"What do you mean?" said Dangle, very white.

"What I say.  You'll either do that or be kicked off."

Here Clapperton interposed.

"Don't go, Dangle; he's no right to turn you off or talk to you like
that before the field because of an accident.  If you go, I'll go too."

"Go, both of you, then," said Yorke.

The two Modern boys looked for a moment as though they doubted their own
ears.  What could Yorke mean, in the middle of a critical match like
this?

He evidently meant what he said.

"Are you going or not?" said he.

It was a choice of evils.  To play now would be to surrender.  To stay
where they were would render them liable to a kicking in the presence of
all Fellsgarth.  They sullenly turned on their heels and walked behind
the goals.  Most of the spectators supposed it was a case of sprained
ankle or some such damage received in the cause of the School.  But the
acute little birds who sat in the oak tree were not to be deceived, and
took good care to point the moral of the incident for the public
benefit.

"Whiroo!  Cads!  Kicked out!  Serve 'em right!  Good riddance!  Play up,
you chaps!"

The chaps needed no encouragement.  With two men short it was next to
impossible to add to their present advantage.  But they contrived to
stand their ground and save the School goal.  And when at last the
welcome "No side" was called, the cheers which greeted them proclaimed
that the School had won that day one of the biggest victories on its
record.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE MODERNS ON STRIKE.

In the festivities with which the glorious victory of the School against
Rendlesham was celebrated Yorke took no part.

The captain was very decidedly down in the mouth.  This was the end of
his endeavour to administer rule with a perfectly even hand, and give no
ground for a whisper of anything like unfair play to the opposition!
This was what his popularity and authority were valued at!  For the
first time in her annals, Fellsgarth fellows had mutinied on the field
of battle and to their captain's face.

Had it been Dangle only, it would have mattered less.  His feud with
Rollitt was notorious, and would account for any ebullition of bad
temper.  But when Clapperton not only patronised the mutiny but joined
in it, things were come to a crisis which it required all Yorke's
courage and coolness to cope with.

It might have solaced him if he could have heard a discussion which was
taking place in the rebels' quarters.

"It served them precious well right," said Clapperton, trying to justify
what, to say the least of it, wanted some excuse.  "We'd stood it long
enough."

"It's bad enough," said Dangle, "to have the fifteen packed with Classic
fellows; but when they take to attacking us before the whole field, it's
time something was done.  I'm as certain as possible that Rollitt
deliberately knocked me over that time."

"It was rather warm measures, though," said Brinkman, "to walk off the
field.  We might have got licked."

"I'm not at all sure if it wouldn't have been a very good thing if we
had," said Clapperton.  "At any rate, it will be a lesson to them what
it might come to."

"Nothing like scuttling a ship in mid-ocean if you want to be attended
to.  The only awkward thing is, you are apt to go down with it," said
Fullerton.

"Do shut up, and don't try to be funny," said Clapperton.  "Of course no
one wants to wreck the clubs.  We shall play up hard next time, and then
they'll see it's worth their while to be civil to us."

"Yes," said Brinkman, "it won't do to let them say we aren't the friends
of the School."

"There's not the least fear of any one thinking that now," gibed
Fullerton.

"Well," said Dangle, "as we are to play the return with Rendlesham this
day week, we shall have a chance of letting them see what we can do.
Only if that cad Rollitt plays, it won't be easy to be civil."

These patriotic young gentlemen were a good deal disconcerted next
morning to find that they had been reckoning without their host.  The
captain had posted up the fifteen to play next week.  The list contained
the names of Fullerton, Brinkman, and two others on the Modern side, but
omitted those of Clapperton and Dangle.

In their wildest dreams the malcontents had never reckoned on the
captain taking such a step as this.  They knew that they were necessary
to the efficiency of any team, and that without them, especially against
Rendlesham, it would be almost a farce to go into the field at all.

At first they were disposed to laugh and sneer; then to bluster.  Then
it dawned on them gradually that for once in their lives they had made a
mistake.  They had not even the credit of refusing to play, but had been
ignominiously kicked out.

A council of war was held, in which mutual recriminations, assisted by
Fullerton's candid reflections on the situation, occupied a considerable
share of the time.

The result of their deliberations was that Clapperton and Dangle went
over in no very amiable frame of mind to the captain.

Yorke, as it happened, was having an uneasy conference with his own side
at the time.  Delighted as the Classics were at the blow which had been
struck at the mutineers, the prospect of almost certain defeat next
Saturday made them anxious for compromise.

"If I were you," said Fisher major, "I'd give them a chance of
explaining and apologising."

"There can be no apology," said Yorke.

"You are quite right in theory," said Denton; "but wouldn't it be rather
a crow for them to see that we are licked without them?"

"We mustn't be licked," said the captain.  "We held our own without them
yesterday."

"Yes; but we were on our own ground, and had a goal to the good before
they struck."

"I think old Yorke is quite right," said Ranger.  "We may be licked, and
if we are they'll crow.  On the other hand, if we let them play now
they'll crow worse.  I think we'd better be beaten by Rendlesham than by
traitors."

"Shan't you let them play at all this half?" said Fisher.

"That depends on themselves," said Yorke.

"Hullo! here they come," said Ranger.

The two Moderns were a little disconcerted to find themselves confronted
with the body of Classic seniors.

"Oh, you're engaged," said Clapperton; "we'll come again."

"No, we were talking about the team; I suppose that's what you've come
about."

"Yes," said Clapperton; "we want to know what it means!"

"Really I don't see how it could have been put plainer.  It means that
the fifteen men named are going to play on Saturday."

"Look here, Yorke," said Clapperton, "if you think I've come over here
to beg you to put Dangle and me into the team, you're mistaken--"

"I don't think it.  You know it's impossible."

"All I can say is, it's sheer spite and nothing else.  Dangle was
deliberately knocked over by that cad Rollitt--"

"Who is not present, and may therefore be called names with safety,"
said Ranger.

"Shut up, Ranger, there's a good fellow," said the captain.

"And Dangle had a right to object," continued Clapperton.

"He had no right to play into the hands of the other side," said Yorke.

"How do you know I did?" said Dangle.

"Do you mean to say you didn't?" said Yorke.

"I didn't come here to be catechised by you.  Are you going to put
Clapperton and me in the fifteen or not?  That's what we came to know."

"No--certainly not," said the captain; "and as that's all, you may as
well go."

"Very well," sneered Clapperton, who was in a high temper, "you'll be
sorry for it.  Come on, Dangle."

"There's only one thing to be done now," said he, when they had got back
to their own side; "we must none of us play.  That will bring them to
reason."

Brinkman approved of the idea.

"There's more sense in that," said he, "than you two sticking out.  That
will reduce the team to a Classic fifteen, and if they get licked it
won't matter."

"There's no possible chance of their making up a fifteen without us?"
asked Dangle.

"None at all.  They haven't the men," said Clapperton, brightening up.
"The fact is, we have them at our mercy; and if they want us to play
again they'll have to ask us properly."

"Meanwhile Fellsgarth will get on splendidly," said Fullerton.

"Shut up.  Don't you see it will be all the better for everybody in the
long run?"

"I can't say I do at present.  It may come by and by--"

"We must see that everybody backs up in this," said Brinkman.  "One
traitor would spoil everything."

"That's what Yorke said on Saturday, wasn't it?" asked Fullerton
innocently, "At least, he said two traitors.  Yorke will not see that
what's right for one fellow is naughty for another."

"Look here, Fullerton," said Clapperton, who was sensitive enough to
feel the sting of all this, "you don't suppose we're doing this for fun,
do you?  Will you promise not to play on Saturday, even if you are
asked?"

"What if I don't?" said Fullerton.

"You won't find it particularly comfortable on this side of the School,
that's all," said Brinkman.

Fullerton meditated and turned the matter over.

"I think on the whole," said he, mimicking Clapperton, "that as this is
for the highest good of the School, and as everybody is to be all the
better in the long run, and as we're all going to be noble and sacrifice
ourselves together, you may put me down as not playing on Saturday.
_Dulce et decorum est pro patria_--I beg pardon, I'm not on the Classic
side yet."

The other players named on the list consented more or less reluctantly
to follow the same example.  After morning school, therefore, when the
fellows looked at the notice board, they saw, to their bewilderment, the
names of the four Modern fellows struck out and the following note
appended to the captain's list--

"Notice.

"The following players protest against the exclusion of two names from
the above list, and decline to play on Saturday, viz., Brinkman,
Fullerton, Ramshaw major, and Smith."

Underneath this, a juvenile hand had carefully inscribed in bold
characters--

"Jolly good riddance of bad rubbish."  Signed, "Wheatfield, W., D'Arcy,
Ashby, Fisher minor."

Fisher minor, who signed this latter manifesto by proxy had hastened to
carry the news of it to his brother.

"The cads!" said the junior.  "We are sure to be beaten; I shall never
dare to get Rollitt twice running."

"What do you mean?" asked the elder brother, turning round.

"Oh, don't tell," said Fisher minor, "I didn't mean to say anything; you
see, I thought he wouldn't fly out, so I asked him last time."

"You!  What do you know of Rollitt?  Why should he play to oblige you?"

Fisher minor, wishing he had not mentioned Rollitt's name, related,
somewhat apologetically, the story of the adventure on the Shayle.

"Why," said the elder brother, "you saved his life, young 'un.  No
wonder he's civil to you!"

"Oh, please don't tell him I told you."

"All right; but what about the boat?  It must have been smashed to bits.
What did Mrs Wisdom say?"

"Oh, Rollitt was very honourable and bought her another.  She told me
so--and I've seen the new boat."

"Rollitt bought it!  Why, he's as poor as a church mouse.  How could he
get the money, I'd like to know?"

"He got it the very next day," said Fisher minor.  "I suppose he had
some; but promise you won't say anything."

"What's the use of making a secret of it?  I won't say anything unless
you like.  But I must go to Yorke."

The captain was quite prepared for the action of the Moderns.

"They've struck," said he.  "Now the question is, shall we play on
Saturday, or scratch the match?"

The unanimous verdict was in favour of playing, whatever the result.

"Of course we are never sure of Rollitt until we've got him," said he,
"so we may have to play without him."

"Would Stratton play for us?" asked some one.

"No, don't let's go outside and ask masters.  We're in for a licking;
but we'll make the best fight we can."

So yet another notice appeared on the board before nightfall.

"The School team on Saturday will consist of the following."  (Here
followed the names, all, of course, on the Classical side.)

"A meeting of the clubs is summoned for October 3, at four p.m., in
Hall."

Of these two announcements the first amused, the second perplexed the
good young men of the Modern side.  The new fifteen consisted half of
raw outsiders who had never played in a first-class match before, and
were utterly unknown to fame on the football field.  But the summons for
October 3 was puzzling.  Did it mean a general row, or was the captain
going to resign, or was an attempt to be made to expel the mutineers?

Clapperton did not like it.  He had expected Yorke would have come to
terms before now, and it disconcerted him to see that, on the contrary,
the captain seemed determined to carry the thing through.

The only thing, of course, was for the Moderns to abstain in a body from
the meeting.  But could they depend on their forces to obey their
leaders?  It was all very well to compel four players to refuse to act;
but to constrain 120 boys to do the same was a less easy task.

It seemed to Clapperton that he would do best to strike the iron while
hot; and for that purpose he made a descent next morning into the
quarters of his fag.  If he could secure the juniors, it would be
something.

He found Percy there alone, diligently working.  That young gentleman
had in fact been reminded in pretty forcible terms by Mr Forder that he
had not yet handed in his Latin letter of apology ordered a week ago.
Percy had hoped if he forgot it long enough Mr Forder would forget it
too, and it had startled and grieved him very much to-day to receive
notice that unless he brought his _poena_ in an hour he would be sent up
to the doctor.

Consequently, while his comrades were out enjoying themselves, he was
here in a shocking bad temper, with a Latin Dictionary in front of him,
trying to express his contrition for having used bad language in class a
week ago.

He had got a little way.  Latin prose for a Modern junior is a trifle
thorny; but Percy had a rough and ready way with him which, if it did
not emulate Cicero, at least made his meaning tolerably clear.

"Care Magistere Fordere, Ego sum excessive tristis ut ego usebam malam
linguam in classem alteram diem.  Ego apologizo, et ego non facerebo
illud iterum.  Ego spero ut vos voluntas prodonnere," (it took him some
time to arrive at this classical term for "you will forgive") "me hanc
tempus."

This was all very well, but it only took up about six lines out of ten,
and he was in despair how to continue.  His ideas, his temper, and his
Latin had all evaporated.  When Clapperton entered, he did not even look
up.

"Cut, whoever you are, and hang yourself," said he.

"Hullo, Percy!  What's the row with you?"

"Don't talk to me," said Percy.  "It's that beast Forder."

"Where are the others?  I want to talk to you youngsters."

"How do I know where every ass in the place is?  What do you want?"

The tone in which the inquiry was made was not encouraging.

"It's about the meeting next week.  We don't mean to attend it."

"Don't you?  Our lot does.  We're going.  Rather."

"It's a dodge of the other side.  They're going to get the clubs into
their own hands, and we've decided none of our fellows shall go.  Then
they can't do anything."

"Can't they?  You don't know my young brother Wally as well as I do.
He'll do something, bless you; but I rather fancy they won't have it all
to themselves.  _We'll_ put a spoke in their wheels."

"Look here, young Wheatfield," said Clapperton, put out by the
obtuseness of his fag, "the long and short of it is you're not to go.
You know what's happened.  Our side has been snubbed and cut out of the
games by those fellows; and now they want to get us to come to their
precious meeting to help them collar the clubs."

"That's just why I and my chaps are going to turn up," said Percy.
"We'll let them know!"

"Do you hear what I say?  You're not to go, you or any of them.  If you
can't understand the reason, I dare say you'll understand a thrashing.
You'll get it unless you stand out like the rest of us."

"I say, what's the Latin for `wrong,' Clapperton?"

"Do you hear what I say?"

"Yes, yes--is it `malus,' or `unrectus,' or what?"

"Are you going to do what I tell you?"

"How can I say what the chaps'll do?"

"You must tell them; you're fags' captain.  They must do what you tell
them."

"I'd jolly well like to catch them not," said Percy, tossing his head:
"I'd teach 'em.  I say, do you think `unrectus' will do?"

"Remember, you'll get it pretty hot if you disobey in this, I promise
you."

"Perhaps `malus' is better form," suggested the junior.

Clapperton left in despair.

"What a fearful ass I was," said Percy when he had gone, "not to make
him write my impot!  Just like me.  Catch our lot not going to that
meeting!  We aint going to skulk.  Whew! there goes the quarter to!  I
shall never get done this brutal thing."

"Id est malus non facere quad magister dicit.  Vos voluntas laetus
audire ut Fellsgarthus liquebat Rendleshamus ad pedemballum super
Saturdaium durare," (Saturday last).  "Nos obtenebanus unum goalum ad
nil quod non erat malum.  Ego debeo nunc concludere.  Ego sum vestrum
fideliter Perceius Granum agrum."  (Percy flattered himself he knew the
correct Latin for his own name.)

He had a rush to get this work of art over to Mr Forder in time, and
was considerably mortified to observe that the master did not seem at
all gratified by the performance.  Just like Forder! the more you laid
yourself out to please him, the worse he was.

"Leave it, sir.  I'll speak to you to-morrow."

"That means a licking," said Percy to himself.  "I can see it in his
eye.  All serene.  That's his way of showing his gratitude."

And he went back in a very bad temper to his own room, where his
comrades had arrived to greet him.

"Why ever can't you chaps be in the way when you're wanted?" prowled
Percy.  "There was Clapperton in here just now talking rot about the
meeting next week.  What do you think?  He says we're not to go to it."

"Why not?"

Percy in his lucid manner tried to explain.

"All gammon," said Lickford.  "If we're to be stopped going to Hall, we
shall be stopped grub next."

This was an argument that went home.

"If Clapperton had made it worth our while, you know," said Cottle, "it
might have been different.  I don't care much about the meeting; but if
I stop away for him, I'll get something for it."

This mercenary view of the subject was new to Percy, but he frankly
accepted it.

"I tell you what," said he; "here, give us a pen; we'll just draw up a
few conditions.  If he accepts them we'll stay away; if he don't, he may
hang himself before we sit out."

After much deliberation, the following charter of six points was drawn
up and laid on Clapperton's table.

"On the following conditions the undersigned will stop out of Hall on
October 3,--namely, to wit, viz., i.e.:--

"1.  No more fagging.

"2.  Don't go to bed till 9:30.

"3.  A study a-piece.

"4.  The prefects shall be abolished.  Any prefect reporting to Forder
to be kicked.

"5.  Except between 9:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. we do as we like.

"6.  That the four following Classic cads get their noses pulled; namely
Wheatfield, W., D'Arcy, Ashby, and Fisher minor.

"If these are agreed to, we won't go to the meeting."

  (Signed by) Wheatfield, P., M.P.
  Cottle, Major-General.
  Lickford, D.D.
  Ramshaw minor, F.S.A.
  Cash, LL.D., etcetera, etcetera.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

CORDER TO THE FRONT.

The morning of the return match with Rendlesham was damp and muggy, and
so assorted well with the spirits of Fellsgarth generally.

The juniors of course were cheerful--everything came in the day's work
for them--but among the seniors on either side gloom prevailed.  Even
Ranger, the lighthearted, was snappish, as his fag discovered; and
Denton, the amiable, hoped he would not, for his temper's sake, meet too
many Moderns between morning and evening.  The captain, though he kept
up his usual show of serenity, was evidently worried.  But he had no
notion of giving in.  No!  If the School was to be thrashed let them
take their thrashing like men, and not whine about like the "other
boys."

"After all," said he to Ranger, "we may not get glory, but we needn't
lose it.  Only, for goodness' sake, let us keep our rows to ourselves,
and not talk about them out of doors."

"Right you are!" said his friend.  "I wish I had your temper.  The cads!
And after the way you've treated them, too.  Why, some of us thought
you went out of your way to favour them."

The captain grunted, and began to throw his flannels into his bag.

"What about Rollitt?" he asked.

"No go.  He's gone off for a day's fishing."

The captain whistled dismally.  "Then we must play a man short.  There's
no one else worth putting in.  It's like marching to one's execution,"
he said; "I wish it was all over.  But it's only just beginning."

The Moderns were gloomy too.  They had taken their course, and they must
stand by it now.  When they came to reflect, it was not a particularly
glorious one, nor did it seem to promise much by way of compensation.
They were done out of football for the rest of the term; they were
reduced to a faction in Fellsgarth, and what was worse, they were
secretly doubtful whether they were quite as much in the right as they
tried to persuade themselves.

They had taken their coarse, however, and must go on.

"I suppose none of our side will go on the omnibus," said Brinkman.

"Why not?" said Clapperton.  "It will do them good to have spectators.
I shall go; not that I care about it, but just to assert my rights."

"Hurrah for self-sacrifice!" said Fullerton.  "If your principles will
allow you to take chicken and tongue sandwiches with you, I'll go too."

"It's ten to one they'll try to prevent our going," said Dangle; "I hope
they'll try."

When the two coaches drove up to carry the fifteen and the prefects and
other privileged boys to the scene of conflict, a good deal of surprise
was evinced at the appearance of Clapperton, Brinkman, Dangle, and
Fullerton, in ordinary costume, and without bags, ready to accompany the
party.

Contrary to their expectations and hopes, no protest was made, and, as
far as the Classic seniors were concerned, no notice was vouchsafed
them.  This was annoying, particularly as the juniors present took care
to call attention to their presence.

"Look at 'em," cried Wally; "don't they look clever?"

"Kicked out of the team--serve 'em right!" shouted Ashby.

"Who's kicked out?" retorted the Modern fags.  "It would take better
chaps than you to kick them out."

"Don't you wish you could kick them in?  They know better," retorted
Percy and Co.

Amid such embarrassing comments, the four Modern heroes mounted to their
places.

The cheers of their adherents hardly made up for the chilly welcome of
their travelling companions.  Yorke, seeing Clapperton looking for a
place, politely moved up to make room, and then turned his back and
talked to Ranger.  The other three were similarly cut off, Dangle
finding himself in between Fisher major and Denton, who talked across
him.  Brinkman, on another coach, was tucked in among some rowdy Classic
middle-boys who were discussing the "strike" very vigorously among
themselves.  As for Fullerton, he was lucky enough to get the seat
beside the driver, where, at any rate, he could count on one sympathetic
soul into whose ears to pour his occasional words of wisdom.

Just as the first coach was starting, a shout was heard from across the
Green, and Corder, the Modern boy whose services were declined on the
previous occasion, equipped in an ulster and with his bag in his hand,
appeared signalling for the _cortege_ to wait.

"Well! what is it?" demanded Dangle.

"Is Yorke there?  Yorke, can I play to-day?"

"No, you can't," said Dangle in a menacing undertone.  "None of us are
playing; you know that."

"I don't see why I mayn't play if I have the chance," said Corder.  "I
awfully want to play in the fifteen."

"We're a man short," said Yorke.  "You can play, Corder."

"If you dare to come and play," said Dangle, still in a whisper, "you'll
find it so precious hot for yourself afterwards that you'll be sorry for
it."

"Yorke says I may play," persisted Corder; "I don't see why I
shouldn't."

"Cad! traitor! blackleg!" yelled Percy and Co., as they saw their man
mount the coach.

"Ha, ha! got _one_ man among you who isn't a coward and a sneak, and--
and a howling kid!" retorted Wally.  "Gee up!"  Whereat the whips
cracked and the happy party drove off.

Corder was one of those obtuse youths who can never take in more than
one idea at a time.  His present idea was football.  He had come up this
term with a consuming ambition to get into the fifteen, and had played
hard and desperately to secure his end.  Last week, when Brinkman was
obliged to retire, he thought his chance was come, and great was his
mortification when he found that his nomination was not accepted by the
captain.  Still he didn't despair.  When he saw the vacancies caused in
the team by the defection of the Moderns, his hopes rose again; but once
more they were dashed by the captain's announcement of a fifteen made up
wholly of Classics.

To-day he had not had the heart to come out and see the coaches start,
and was moping in his own room, when some one brought in word that
Rollitt was not going to play after all, and that the team was setting
out a man short.

Whereupon Corder dashed into his ulster, flung his flannels into his
bag, and tore out of his house just in time to secure for himself the
long-coveted honour, and find himself in the glorious position of
"playing for the School."

How was such a fellow likely to trouble his head about strikes, and
protests, and organised desertion?

Fortunately for the comfort of his journey, he had to pack himself away
on the floor between the feet of Ridgway and another of the team, who,
if they kicked him at all, only did it by accident or by way of
encouragement, and not as Dangle or Brinkman might have done, in spite.

The rain was coming down pretty steadily by the time the party got to
their destination, and the gloom on the brows of the four Modern
prefects deepened as they looked up and speculated on the delights of
standing for an hour on the wet grass watching their rivals play.

"Dangle," said Clapperton, "we must stop that cad Corder's playing at
all cost.  It will upset everything.  Come and talk to him."

But Corder, perhaps with an inkling of what was in store for him, had
entrenched himself behind a number of other players, and in close
proximity to Ranger, who had evidently told himself off to see that the
last recruit of the fifteen was not tampered with.

The signals of the two seniors were studiously not observed, and when
Dangle, getting desperate, said--

"Corder, half a minute; Clapperton wants you."  Ranger interposed with--

"Come on, you fellows, it's time we got into our flannels," and
effectually checkmated the manoeuvre.

"If he doesn't get paid out for this," growled Clapperton, "I'm precious
mistaken."

"Yes; and the other fellows must see that he is.  If this sort of thing
spreads, we may as well cave in at once."

The Rendlesham fellows hovered about under shelter till the last moment,
grumbling at the weather, the grass, and the dock.  At length the
Fellsgarth boys put in an appearance; sides were solemnly tossed for,
and the order to "spread out" was given.

"Hullo!" said one of the Rendlesham men as he passed Clapperton and
Dangle, "why aren't you playing?  Afraid of the cold?"

"No, we scratched because--"

"Have you got that big man down who was so hot in the scrimmages?  I
forget his name.  _He's_ not one of the delicate ones, I fancy."

"No more are we; we're not playing because--"

"Hullo! they're waiting," said the player, and went off, leaving the
explanation still unfinished.

One of the last to run out was Corder.

"You young cad," growled Clapperton as he passed; "take my advice and
don't play, unless--"

"Come on, Corder--waiting," shouted Yorke.

Corder obeyed like lightning.

The match began disastrously for Fellsgarth.  Within five minutes of the
kick-off, a run up by one of the Rendlesham quarter-backs carried the
ball right into the School lines, and a touch-down resulted.  On a fine
day like last Saturday a goal would have been certain, but on the wet
grass, the try did not come off.  But five minutes later, a drop-kick
from the middle of the field by the Rendlesham captain secured a
magnificent goal for the home team.

Clapperton sneered.

"What I expected," said he.  "They'll be lucky if they don't lose a
dozen."

Yorke, on the contrary, was cheering up.  Bad as these opening ten
minutes had been, he fancied his team was not going to do so badly after
all.  The new players were working like mad in the scrimmage.  Ranger
was as quick on his feet in the wet as in the dry; and Corder at half-
back had been surprisingly steady.

Before kicking off again he made one or two changes.  He moved Ridgway,
who was a heavy weight, up into the forwards.  Corder, greatly to his
delight, was entrusted with the goal, and Fisher major moved up to half-
back.  The forwards were ordered on no account to break loose, but if
necessary to keep the ball among them till time was called.

Then, with his well-known "On you go!" he lacked off.

The ball was almost immediately locked up in a tight, fierce scrimmage.
The boys took the captain's advice with a vengeance, and held the ball
among their feet doggedly, neither letting it through on their side, nor
forcing it out on the side of the enemy.

At length, however, it could be seen filtering out sideways, just where
the captain was hovering outside the scrimmage.

"Let it come!" he whispered.  "Look out, Ranger!"

Next moment the ball was under his arm, and before any one realised that
the scrimmage was up, he was off with it and among the enemy's half-
backs.  The half-backs knew Yorke of old, and closed upon him before he
could double or get round them.

"Pass!" shouted Ranger.

It was beautifully done, while Yorke was falling and Ranger brushing
past.  The enemy's half-backs were not in it with the fleet Fellsgarth
runner, nor was their back; and to their own utter amazement, three
minutes later the School placed to their credit an easy goal.

Then did Clapperton and Dangle and Brinkman gnash their teeth till they
ached, and Fullerton, standing near, had his gibe.

"It was worth coming here in the rain to see that, wasn't it?"

The match was not yet over.  The Rendlesham men, startled into attention
by this unexpected rebuff, took care that such a misadventure should not
happen again, and making all the use they could of their superior
weight, bore down the scrimmages and forced the ball into the open.
Once they carried it through with a splendid rush, and their captain
picking it up under the very feet of the boys, ran it forward a few
yards, and took a drop-kick which missed by only a few inches.

A little later came Corder's chance.  He had lived all the term for this
moment.  If he was taken back to Fellsgarth on a shutter he would not
care, so long as he did himself credit now.

He had a clear field to start with, and was well out of touch before the
advance guard of the enemy bore down on him.  Then it was a sight to see
him wriggle and dodge, and twist and turn in and out among them,
threading them like a needle through a string of beads, and slipping
through their hands like an eel.

"Well played indeed, Corder!" cried Yorke.

Oh, what music was in the sound!  What would he not dare now!

On he went, now diving under an arm, now staggering round a leg; now
jumping like a kangaroo against an opponent.  The very sight of his
evolutions seemed to demoralise the Rendlesham men.  They floundered and
slid on the slippery grass, and made wild grabs without ever reaching
him.  It was really too ridiculous to be eluded by a raw hand like
this--and yet he eluded them.

Half-way down the field he ran with a roar of applause at his back, and
only a handful of the enemy left ahead.  How splendid if he could only
pass them, and make his record with a run from one goal to the other!

Alas! a swoop from behind greeted the proud thought; two hands clawed at
his shoulders, and from his shoulders slipped to his waist, and from his
waist slid down to his ankles, where for a moment they held, and sent
the runner tripping over on his nose in the mud, with the ball spinning
away a yard ahead.

It was all up.  No!  Fisher was on the spot, and at Fisher's heels
Ridgway.  The Rendlesham backs flung themselves in the way, but only to
divert, not to stop their career.  When Corder picked himself up and
rubbed the mud out of his eyes, the first thing he saw was Ridgway
sitting behind the enemy's line with the ball comfortably resting on his
knee!  It was another for the School--perhaps a goal.

Alas! on that ground the long side-kick was too much even for Yorke.  It
shot wide, and Rendlesham breathed again.

But the long and short of it was that the match was a tie; a goal and a
try to each side; and that to Corder belonged the credit of a big hand
in the lesser point.

"Awfully well run, Corder," said the captain, as, time having been
called, the two walked off the field together.  "You must play for us
again."

After that, who should say life was not worth living?

The very weather seemed to change for Corder.  The sun came out, flowers
sprang up at his feet, birds started singing in the trees overhead.
What a letter he would have to write home to-morrow!  The captain's pat
on the back sent a glow all through him.  Who wouldn't be a Fellsgarth
chap after all?

It scarcely damped his joy to perceive that neither Clapperton, Dangle,
nor Brinkman shared in the general congratulations, but looked more
black and threatening than ever as he passed.  Pooh! what did he care
for that!

How he enjoyed the glorious Rendlesham high tea, and the drive home in
the rain with everybody talking and laughing and rejoicing, singing
songs and shouting war-cries!  He was quite sorry when it came to an
end, and he had to dismount and go over alone to his own house.

He could hear the shouts and huzzas of the Classics across the Green as
Wakefield's turned out in a body to welcome their men.  No one at
Forder's turned out to welcome him.  The four prefects themselves had
not even waited for him.

For the first time that day Corder felt himself wishing he had a little
sympathy in his jubilation.  It was dull, when everybody over on the
other side was shouting himself hoarse, to hear not a "cheep" of
congratulation from his own fellows.

However, it didn't matter much.  He went to his room and changed, and
hoped his messmate Wilson would not be long in coming for supper and a
gossip.

Wilson came presently, but his face was glum and his manner frigid.

"Oh, here you are, old chap; I'm peckish.  Did you hear about the match,
we--"

"Shut up," said Wilson; "you're a cad.  I don't want to talk to you."

Corder put down his knife and fork, and looked up in amazement.  This
from Wilson!  He knew Clapperton was sore about it, but Wilson--

He went on eating while thinking it out, and Wilson ate too in silence,
and then rose to go.

"Are you not going to prepare to-night?"

"Yes, in Dangle's room."

And Corder was left alone.

This was too bad of Wilson--to-night of all nights.  He would go and
look up Selby.  Selby, he knew, would be interested in the day's news,
for had they not practised drop-kicks together for an hour a day all
this term?

Selby was in, but not at all glad to see him.

"Are you busy, old man?" asked Corder.

"I don't want you here," said Selby.

"Why, what's the row?"

"Row?  You're a sneak, that's the row.  Cut!"

Surely Selby must be out of sorts to talk like that.  Corder stood in
the door for a moment, on the off-chance that his friend might be
joking.  But no; Selby turned his back and began to read a book.

This was getting monotonous.  Corder returned to his study to think it
out a little more.  His fag, Cash, was there looking for a paper.

"Hullo, youngster! that you?  We didn't get beaten after all, to-day, I
suppose you heard."

Cash's reply was laconic, to say the least of it.  He turned round and
put out his tongue.

"None of your cheek, I say," said Corder, "or I'll--"

"How _dare_ you speak to me!" said the junior; "you're a cad--I'm not
going to fag for a cad."

And he vanished.

Corder went to bed that night sorely perplexed.  And his perplexity was
not relieved when he rose next morning and found a paper on his table
with the following genial notice:--

"Any boy in Forder's found speaking to Corder the sneak will be cut by
the house.  By Order."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE SHOP OPENS.

Robert--no one knew his surname--was a regular institution at
Fellsgarth.  Pluralist and jack-of-all-trades as he was, he seemed
unable to make much of a hand at anything he took up.  He was School
porter, owner of the School shop, keeper of the club properties, and
occasional School policeman; and he discharged none of his functions
well.  The masters did not regard him with much confidence, the boys,
for the most part, did not care for him, the other men about the place
disliked him.  And yet, as part and parcel of Fellsgarth, every one put
up with him.

As has already been hinted, his management of the School shop had been a
conspicuous failure--both for himself and the young innocents who
squandered their substance on his tarts.  He complained that he could
make no profit; and as his method for recouping himself was to supply
the worst possible article at the highest possible price, his young
customers neglected him and aggravated his loss.

It was rumoured that another more questionable method of replenishing
his exchequer was by laying odds on the School games, which (as in the
case of the second Rendlesham match) did not always turn out in the way
he expected.  This, however, was only rumour, and was not to be reckoned
among Bob's known transgressions, which were general stupidity,
surliness, unsteadiness, and an inveterate distaste for veracity.

Such being his reputation, it astonished no one on the Monday following
the events recorded in the last chapter to see the shutters of the shop
at the Watch-tower Gate up, and a rudely scrawled announcement, "This
shop is closed."

But what did cause astonishment was a subsequent announcement inscribed
in print letters:--

"This establishment will reopen on Wednesday under entirely new
management.  Superior grub at greatly reduced prices.  No more shoe-
leather or flat swipes!  Best tarts 1 penny each; ditto ginger-beer 1½
pence a bottle.  Fresh fruit and pastry daily.  Rally round the old
shop!

"By Order."

Speculation ran high as to who the enterprising new tradesman could be.
Some said it was Mrs Wisdom.  Others said one of the Penchurch shops
was going to run it as a branch.  Others suggested that some of the
seniors had a hand in it.  But the truth never once leaked out.

Our nine juniors played an artful part in that day's business.  They
mingled with the crowd in front of the notice, and freely bandied about
wild conjectures as to who the new manager or managers could be, at the
same time hinting broadly that _they_ intended to patronise the new
concern.

"Tell you what," said D'Arcy, "perhaps it's the doctor wants to turn an
honest penny.  Don't blame him either."

"Perhaps it's Rollitt," suggested Cash, amid laughter.  "What a game!
He'll go selling tarts by the pint and ginger-beer by the ounce.  Whew!
think of Rollitt's ginger-beer."

"I asked Bob if he knew who it was," said Wally, "and he said, `No, he
wished he did; he'd get something out of him for good-will.'"

"What's that?" asked Ashby.  "If he'd said bad temper, there might have
been some of that going about."

"Anyhow," said Wally, "I rather fancy the thing myself.  The things
can't be worse than they have been, and if they're fresh every day,
they're bound to be better, and the tarts are a halfpenny less, and so's
the ginger-pop."

"Hooroo!" said Cottle; "you can get half as much again for the same
money.  I wish they'd open to-day."

After which, one by one they tailed off, leaving a general impression
behind them that whoever else was in the secret, these nine young
innocent lambs were not.

Matters had not advanced to this stage without considerable
deliberation.  Several committee meetings had been held, some of which,
under Mr Stratton's presidency, had been of a practical nature, others,
without his controlling presence, had ended in dust.  On the whole,
however, the young merchant adventurers had exhibited a reasonable grasp
of their responsibilities and an aptitude for dealing with the necessary
details.

One point discussed was whether the shop should be open all day, or only
at certain times.  Mr Stratton was in favour of the latter.  He urged
that during the off hours between eleven and twelve, and in the
afternoon between four and six, would be ample.

The committee argued, from personal experience, that there were other
hours of the day when a fellow felt in the humour for a "blow out."  To
this Mr Stratton replied, "Let him `blow out' by all means, but not on
the company's premises.  He could do his shopping during shop hours, and
`blow out' with his purchases at any hour of the day or night the School
rules permitted.  They couldn't undertake to provide a banqueting hall
for their customers."

"But," urged the committee, "if you have a shopman, why not get your
money's worth out of him?"

"Why waste our money on a shopman at all?" propounded Mr Stratton to
his astounded fellow-directors.  "Why not take turns behind the counter
ourselves; say one of the Wheatfields and Cash one week, and Cottle and
Ashby the next, and so on?  The hours proposed were not school hours;
and though the persons on duty might occasionally be done out of a game,
still it would fall on all alike, and would be a little sacrifice for
the common good."

"But," said Percy, whose hair was on end at this tremendous proposition,
"suppose Wally--that is, I mean, wouldn't it be necessary to count the
tarts before each chap went on duty and see how many there were at the
end?"

"It might with you and your lot," retorted Wally, very red in the face.
"It'd be best to have a weighing machine handy and charge you 8 pence a
pound for every pound extra you weighed at the end of the day!"

"We'll neither count nor weigh," said Mr Stratton; "we'll trust to
every fellow's honour.  Why, if we couldn't do that, do you suppose the
shop would keep open a week?"

This impressed the meeting vastly, and the discussion was changed to the
question of profits.

The boys were in favour of screwing all they could out of their
customers.  They didn't see why, if Bob sold bad tarts for three-
halfpence, they shouldn't sell good ones at least for the same price.

"It's giving it to 'em both ends," said they.

"Why not?" said the master.  "We want the fellows to get the benefit.
We don't want all the profit.  As it is, we shall make a farthing on
every tart we sell.  We ought to sell four times as many as Bob did,
oughtn't we?"

"Quite that," said they.

"Very well; see how that works out."

And Mr Stratton took his chalk and worked out this sum on the black-
board:--

12 bad tarts at 1½ pence = 1 shilling, 6 pence, cost 9 pence, profit 9
pence.

48 good tarts at 1 penny = 4 shillings, cost 3 shillings, profit 1
shilling.

"You see," said he, "if we can only increase the demand, we shall easily
make Bob's profit, and more.  Having good tarts will increase it in one
way, and selling cheap will increase it another.  It's worth trying,
anyhow."

And so the deliberations went on, and the boys' minds gradually took on
the new idea.

The thirty shillings, Mr Stratton reported, had been advanced, and Mrs
Stratton was appointed a subcommittee to lay it out.  A method of
accounts was arranged.  The first day's stock was to be charged at the
selling price to the shopman for the day.  At the end of the day he was
to hand over to the treasurer the money he had taken and what was left
of the stock, which two items together ought to make up the sum of his
responsibility.  It was felt that in a very few days the committee would
ascertain pretty nearly what quantity of each article was consumed, and
would be able to order accordingly.  Any deficiency was to be set down
to bad management, and no other reason; and any shopman deficient three
days running was to forfeit his right to officiate again during that
term.

Lots were solemnly drawn for the distinction of opening the shop, and
the choice fell on D'Arcy, and Lickford, who for the next day or two
went about shaking in their shoes.  As the day drew nearer, the venture
seemed a tremendous one, and Mr Stratton had to use all his powers of
encouragement to keep his colleagues from not taking fright at the last
moment.

"It will all go swimmingly, you'll see," said he.  "I will hold myself
in readiness to come down and back you up if there's the least hitch,
but I shall be greatly disappointed if you need me."

The last act of the committee before commencing proceedings was to draw
up a manifesto, which was copied out and duly affixed to the notice
boards and the shop-shutters on the morning of the opening.

_Under the distinguished patronage of Mr and Mrs Stratton_.

  The Fellsgarth Shop will be opened this day from 11 to 12,
  And 4 To 8,
  and daily (sundays excepted) till further notice.
  The following prime goods, at the cheap prices affixed.
  [Here followed a list of the stores.]
  Ready money.  No tick.  Change given.
  no more stomach-ache!!
  Real jam!
  Ripe fruit!
  Fresh pastry!
  All the season's novelties.  Nothing stale.
  Boys of Fellsgarth--
  Come in your thousands!
  No risk to man or boy.
  No favour.
  Masters and fags treated alike.
  All the profits for the clubs.
  Treasurer, Mrs Stratton.
  Managing directors, Nine gentlemen, Carefully Selected.
  President, Mr Stratton.
  Plenty for all.  No questions asked.
  All are welcome.
  Come early and stay late.

  _By Order_.

This soul-stirring manifesto, which had the hearty approval both of the
president and treasurer (who carefully revised the spelling), threw some
satisfactory light on the mystery.  Who were the "carefully selected
gentlemen" was still obscure, although it was generally held that
Fellsgarth only contained nine individuals answering to that particular
description.  What was more important was that Mr and Mrs Stratton
were at the back of the venture.  If so, it was not a swindle, and the
grub was pretty sure to be right.  The new price list, moreover, was
very satisfactory, and on the whole the hours were approved of.

When the eleven o'clock bell sounded, on the Wednesday morning, a
general movement was made for the Watch-Tower Gate, where, firmly
entrenched behind a clean counter piled up with the good things a
schoolboy holds dear, demurely stood D'Arcy and Lickford, looking very
anxious and scared.

At judiciously selected points among the crowd their friends looked on
sympathetically.

After the laughter which had greeted the discovery had died away, an
awkward pause ensued.  No one exactly liked to start.  The seniors
present felt their dignity would be compromised.  The middle-boys did
not like to do what the seniors were too shy to do.  The juniors were
afraid some one might laugh if they led off.  Consequently for a minute
or two every one stared at the two shopmen, who cast down their eyes,
and blushed and simpered.

At length, however, the ice was broken in a very pretty way.  For Mrs
Stratton on her way out of the school looked in, and taking in the
situation, advanced to the counter and said--

"A bottle of ginger-beer, if you please, Lickford."

Lickford, who, to use his own polite phrase, was "bossing the drinks and
fruit" for the day, nearly tumbled down with the shock of this sudden
challenge, and made a wild grab at the nearest bottle within reach.  The
eyes of Fellsgarth were upon him; he lost his head entirely, and made
herculean efforts to draw the cork without loosing the wire.  His
contortions were terrible.

When he could not hold the bottle firm enough between his knees, he
tried gripping it between his feet.  Then in a hot whisper he besought
D'Arcy to hang on to the end, and for a time the bottle was invisible
under the two.  Then he took another, amid the enthusiastic cheers of
the spectators, and was proceeding to release the corkscrew from the
refractory vessel, when Mrs Stratton said in her pleasant way--

"I see you keep the new kind of bottles that have the corks wired down.
They are much better than the old, and it's very little trouble undoing
the wire."

This saved Lickford.  In a moment the wire was removed, and the cork
burst out triumphantly, even before it was pulled, showering a grateful
froth of fizz into the waistcoat of the operator.

"It's beautifully well up.  Thank you, Lickford, how much?" said Mrs
Stratton.

"They're a shilling a dozen.  I mean three-halfpence each," said D'Arcy.
"We can give you change."

"Here's twopence.  I'll take a halfpenny apple.  That will make it
right, won't it?"

And amid loud cheers she departed.

The ice thus broken, a rush took place, as Ridgway, who was poetical,
said--

"Fellows may step in where angels didn't fear to tread."

Then did D'Arcy and Lickford pant and perspire, and wish they had never
been born.  Hands reached in from all sides, and helped themselves to
cakes and tarts, and coppers showered in on them from nobody could tell
where.

They found themselves handing change out into space, and sowing sweets
broadcast among the crowd.

The other directors meanwhile, as in duty bound, nobly rallied round
them, and added to their embarrassment.

"Walk up, walk up!" shouted Wally.  "Try our brandy-balls, eight a
penny.  Eight brandy-balls for Dalton; you chaps, look sharp.  Change
for a sov. for Clapperton; beg pardon, sixpence (didn't know he kept
such small coins).  Hullo, hullo! stand by for my young brother Percy!
He's just a-going to begin.  Fifteen jam tarts, half a pound of
peppermints, half a dozen ginger-beer.  Bite his money hard, D'Arcy; see
there are no bad 'uns.  I know the chap!"

"Bah!  I hope they've got better toffee here than that muck you make,"
said Percy.

"Come, wake up!" cried Cash.  "I've been waiting five minutes for my
cake."

"Can't have 'em; we've run out," said D'Arcy.

"Well, you must be a green one only to get such a few," said a middle-
boy, who had also built his hopes on the same delicacy.

"Very sorry," said Percy to the company generally.  "You must excuse
these chaps--raw hands--they don't know how to manage at present.  Give
'em time.  They'll do better; won't you, Lickford?  Takes some time to
get a notion into Lickford's head, but when it gets there, my word, it
sticks.  Get in a double lot of cakes to-morrow, do you hear, or I shall
give you the sack."

Despite these pleasant recriminations the business went on merrily.  The
"tuck" was pronounced a great advance on anything Robert had provided,
and rumours of its excellence penetrated into quarters which had never
contributed customers to the old shop.

In the afternoon the crowd was less, but the business more steady.  Mr
Stratton dropped in for a slice of cake, and Mrs Wakefield and the
three little Wakefields came to patronise the undertaking.  One or two
fellows, too, sent their fags to secure "extras" for tea, and one or two
left orders for another day.  Inquiries were made, moreover, for certain
articles, such as lemons, tea-cakes, etcetera, which the shopmen took a
note of as worth laying in a stock of.  And the lack of demand for a few
of the things they had, suggested to the same astute young merchants
that they might be dispensed with in future.

Of course, a few boys tried to interfere with the regulations by
demanding "tick," and wanting to make bargains.  But they were promptly
met by a _non possumus_ from the directors present, and finally brought
to reason by being referred to Mr Stratton.

The day passed without the necessity of any appeal to the president.  An
anxious consultation was, however, held in his room after closing time.
Naturally, owing to the exceptional rush, the accounts were a little
out, but as they happened to be on the right side this was a matter for
congratulation rather than distress.  Nearly two pounds had been taken,
and the stock left on hand was valued at five shillings, so that
actually it was possible to repay half of the thirty shillings lent,
after the very first day.  Mr Stratton, however, advised that only ten
shillings should be repaid this time, and the other five shillings put
into a reserve fund, in case of need.

"Of course, you can't expect to do as big a business as this every day,"
said he.  "It will settle down to a regular jog-trot in a few days, and
then we shall be able to judge much better how we stand.  I shall be
very well satisfied if we make about five shillings clear a day."

"I think you boys have started very well," began the treasurer, but her
husband held up his finger admonishingly.

"I should have been very disappointed with them if they had not," said
he.  "It's easy enough to start, the thing will be to keep it up."

"Remember," he added, "it will be better not to brag out of doors about
our profits or that sort of thing.  It will be time enough to talk about
that when we are able to hand over a good lump sum to the clubs.  Now
it's time you went to preparation.  Good night all."

"I tell you what," said Lickford to his fellow-shopman as they walked
across the Green, "we shall have to be pretty smart to-morrow if we're
to get to the club meeting."

"Why," said D'Arcy, "I thought none of you Modern cads were going to
show up?"

"We heard you'd all funked it," said Wally.

"I don't blame them," said Ashby; "they've not much to be proud of,
those Modern chaps."

"Never mind," said Fisher minor, "Fellsgarth can get on well enough
without them."

The party came to a halt and regarded one another seriously, and Percy
said--

"Whoever told you we weren't going to turn up, told crams.  We're
coming.  We'll see you don't have it all to yourselves, rather!"

"My eye, won't you get licked for it!  Nice to belong to a house where
you mayn't sneeze unless your senior lets you."

"Go on!  Shut up!  See if you can't canvass a bit.  That's what you're
best at--that, and getting it hot on the hands for cheating."  Whereupon
the troops separated.

The taunts of the Classics made their rivals wince, despite their
affected contempt.  To-morrow was the day of the meeting; and between
now and then they must decide whether or not they would obey their own
seniors and stay away, or revolt and take the consequences.  The
unanimous opinion was in favour of revolt, unless Clapperton made it
uncommonly worth their while to obey.

They were not destined to remain long in doubt, for the senior invaded
their quarters that very evening.

"Just remember, you youngsters," said he, "no one is going to the
meeting to-morrow from our side."

"Oh?"

"Any fellow who goes will get it hot, I promise him."

"Ah!  What about our conditions?  What have you done about them?"

"Put them in the coal-scuttle; and I've a good mind to put all five of
you there too, for your impudence."

"Ah!"

The captain turned on his heel, with a final warning.

"That settles it, you chaps," said Percy, when he had gone.  "We go."

"Rather," replied everybody.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

SOMETHING WRONG IN THE ACCOUNTS.

Fisher major sat in his study after morning class, next morning, the
picture of boredom and perplexity.  Lists of names, receipt-books, cash-
box, bills, and account-books were littered on the table before him.
Between these and a cobweb on the ceiling his troubled looks travelled,
as he gnawed the end of his pen, and passed his fingers aimlessly
through his hair.

There was something wrong; and what it was he could not for the life of
him make out.  To any one familiar with Fisher major's business--or,
rather, unbusiness--habits, there was nothing wonderful in that.  He was
happy-go-lucky in all his dealings.  He could receive a subscription one
day, and only remember, in a panic, to enter it a week after.  His money
he kept all over the place; some in his desk, some in the cash-box, some
in the drawer of his inkstand.  He had a vague idea that he had a
special reason for dividing it thus--that one lot may have belonged to
the School clubs, another to the House clubs, and another to something
else.  But which was which it passed his wit to remember.

He had had his doubts of the business all along.  His friends had urged
him to take the office, and with their help he had persuaded himself its
duties were simple and easily discharged.  He had determined he would do
the thing thoroughly well.  He had bought these account-books out of his
own private purse, and spent an evening in beautifully ruling them in
red ink, with one column for the date, one for the name, and three for
pounds, shillings, and pence.  He had procured two letter-files,
labelled respectively "Club" and "House," into which to put his
receipts.  And he had provided himself with a dozen elastic bands and an
equal number of paper-fasteners.  What more could a treasurer desire?

Alas! the beautiful account-books got mixed up with one another, the
letter-files remained empty, and the elastic bands somehow did duty as
football garters.  The Club accounts were scrawled, for the most part,
in pencil on the backs of envelopes, awaiting a grand transcription into
the books; and the receipts, pending a similar fortunate time, where
huddled away in the drawer with Greek verses and letters from the people
at home.

Things had now come to a pass.  The captain had yesterday suggested
that, in view of the meeting to-day, it would be well to have the
accounts made up, so as to be able, if called upon, to state exactly how
they stood financially.

"All serene," said Fisher; "I'll let you have the lot in ten minutes."

It was now considerably more than ten hours since the rash undertaking
had been given, and the accounts were considerably more confused than
they had been when Fisher sat down to square them.

The Club and House accounts were hopelessly mixed.  Some fellows
appeared to have paid several times over to both funds, and others not
once to either.  Worse than that, Fisher could not find his memorandum
of what he had paid out in small disbursements since term began.  Still
worse, when he did come in desperation to lump both funds together, and
deduct the total amount he had spent, he found himself between £4 and £5
out of pocket!

That was the serious discovery which, on this particular morning, was
preying on his spirits and making him look a picture of bewilderment.

"I'm bothered if I can make it out," said he to himself.  "Everybody's
marked down as paid--I remember noticing that weeks ago.  At that rate I
ought to have £25 for the Clubs, and £9 12 shillings for the House.
Yes, that's right--I had that; there's a note of it; three lots--£15 7
shillings 6 pence on September 1, £7 2 shillings 6 pence on September
13, and £12 2 shillings on another day--that makes the total.  There you
are.  Why on earth did I put them away in separate lots?  Then I paid £5
for the new goals, and something else--what was it?  Oh, that was for
the House balls--oh, but we are lumping the two together.  What was it?
I know, 17 shillings 6 pence--that's £5 17 shillings 6 pence; and
something else, I know, came to a pound--£6 17 shillings 6 pence.  Take
that from £34 12 shillings, leaves £27 14 shillings 6 pence--and I've
only got £22 18 shillings 6 pence!  Where, in the name of wonder, has
the rest gone?"

And once more the dismal operation of adding up, counting, and
subtracting began anew, with the same, or almost the same, result--there
was a mistake of something like £4 10 shillings, whichever way you
looked at it.

Dalton, who came in presently, could throw no further light on the
problem.  He added up the columns, counted the money, subtracted the
payments and arrived at the same result.

Had the difference been smaller, it might have been accounted for by a
few subscriptions omitted or a few payments not entered.  But £4 10
shillings was too big a sum to leak away by accident; and, with the
exception of the new goals, Fisher major was confident nothing had been
spent approaching the figure.

Dalton then proposed a fresh hunt through the study, in case the missing
sum might be hidden for safety in some corner.  So the room was turned
upside down; the bed-clothes were shaken out, pockets searched, books
turned over, tea-pots peered into; but all to no purpose.

The captain looked in while the search was proceeding.

"Have you got the-- Hullo, what's up?"

"Why," said Fisher major, "there's a discrepancy.  We ought to have £27
14 shillings 6 pence, and there's about £4 10 shillings short."

"Do you mean that's missing in the Club accounts?"

"Well, either in that or the House clubs, or in both lumped together.  I
say, I wish you'd add that up, there's a good fellow.  The addition may
be wrong."

But no; the captain made it the same as Dalton.

Ranger and Ridgway dropped in while the audit was in progress, and were
promptly pounced upon to add the columns too.  Evidently the mistake was
not there.  They made the total precisely the same.

"It must be in the payments, then," said Fisher.  So the whole party sat
down, and scrutinised the hapless treasurer's bills and vouchers, and,
after allowing him the benefit of every imaginable doubt, still brought
the deficit out at the same uncompromising figure.

"Let's have another look round," suggested Fisher.  So once more the
study was turned topsy-turvy, and every nook and cranny searched.  But
no money was there, nor any sign of it.

The captain looked grave.

"It's precious awkward," said he.

"It's sure to turn up," said Fisher.  "I'll go over the whole thing
again, and have the room searched."

"Meanwhile," said Ranger, "it's to be hoped no questions are asked by
the fellows opposite."

"Not much chance; I hear they are none of them going to turn up," said
Dalton.

"That's their look-out," responded the captain.

Much to their disgust, Ashby and Fisher minor were summoned from the
vicinity of the shop that morning to assist the treasurer in his
hopeless search.  They did not mind turning a study upside down on their
own account, but they strongly objected to have to do it for any one
else.

Fisher major did not at first vouchsafe much information with regard to
the missing object.

"Look round everywhere," said he, "and see if you see anything."

Ashby looked, and said he saw a lot of things.

"I mean money, of course," said the treasurer.

Whereupon the two simultaneously made a grab at the loose cash on the
table, declaring they had found it first go off.

"No--not that.  It's some that's missing."

"How much?" asked Ashby.

"Never mind--a pound or two."

"Are you sure it's about in the room?"

"That's what I want you to look and see, you young donkey!"

"Two pounds," said Ashby; "was it all in silver?"

"No--it was three or four pounds--about £4 10.  I don't know what it was
in."

"Four pound ten--that's a lot," said the young brother.  "I thought you
said you were hard up?"

"So I did.  It's not my money, but the club's.  What's that to do with
it?  I want you to see if you can find it while I'm down in class."

Whereupon they set to work.  They emptied the contents of every drawer
in a glorious heap on the floor.  They shook out his socks, and turned
the pockets of all his coats inside out.  They pulled his bed about the
room, and shook out all his sheets.  They raked out his fire, and prised
up a loose board in the floor.  They emptied his basins into his bath,
and investigated the works of his eight-day clock.  But high or low they
could find no money.

Fisher's study did not get over that morning's quest in a hurry.  When
the owner returned, he wished devoutly he had never been ass enough to
confide the task to a couple of raw Goths like these.  Whatever chance
there may have been before of discovering any mislaid article, it was
now hopelessly and irredeemably gone.

He dismissed the two youngsters with a kick, which they felt to be very
ungrateful after all the trouble they had taken.  Limp in spirits and
grimy in personal appearance, they crawled away to the shop to console
themselves with ginger-beer and a cheese-cake.

"Hullo," said Lickford, as they arrived, "what have you been up to?
Sweeping the chimneys?  I heard they wanted it on your side.  What'll
you have?  We've been doing prime.  Where have you been?"

"We've been hunting about in my senior's study for some club money
that's lost; about four pou--"

"Shut up!" said Ashby, nudging his companion.  "What do you want to blab
all over the place about it for?"

"How much?--four pounds?" said a voice near; and looking round, to their
horror they saw Dangle.

"All right," said Ashby, trying to save the situation, "it's bound to
turn up.  He stuck it in a specially safe place, and can't remember
where.  Look sharp with the ginger-beer, young Lickford."

"Money down first," said Lickford.  "Catch me trusting any of you
Classic chaps with tick!  You've got no tin generally, to begin with,
and then you go and lose it."

"That's better than stealing it," retorted Ashby.

"The thing is," said Dangle, breaking in on these pleasant
recriminations, "it wouldn't matter if it was Fisher's own money that
was lost.  But it belongs to all of us."

"I tell you he's found it by now," said Ashby.  Then, turning to Fisher
minor, he whispered, "you howling young ass, you've done it!  Now
there'll be a regular row, and your brother will have you to thank for
it!"

"Don't blame him," said Dangle.  "It's quite right of him to tell the
truth."

With which highly moral pronouncement the Modern senior strolled away.

Lickford was too much engrossed by a sudden influx of customers to
improve the occasion; and Fisher minor, who never enjoyed ginger-beer
less in his life, was allowed to depart in peace to meditate on the evil
of his ways, and the possible hot water he had been preparing for his
brother.

He had sense enough to reflect that he had better make a clean breast of
it to his brother at once.

To his surprise, the latter took the news that Dangle had heard of the
deficiency in the accounts more quietly than he had expected.

"I do wish you'd hold your tongue out of doors about things that don't
concern you," said he.

"Will Dangle get you into a row?" asked Fisher minor.

"Dangle?  I'm not responsible to him more than to any one else.  The
money's lost; and unless I can find it or make out where the mistake
comes in, I shall have to stump up--that's all."

"But, I say, you haven't got money enough," said the boy.

"I know that, you young duffer."

"Whatever will you do?"

Fisher major laughed.

"I shan't steal it, if that's any comfort to you; and I shan't cook the
accounts."

"I say, I wonder if Rollitt could lend it you.  He must have some money,
for he paid for Widow Wisdom's new boat, you know."

"I heard of that.  I wish I saw my way to paying my debts as well as he
did."

"I say, shall I ask him?"

"Certainly not.  The best thing you can do is to shut up."

Fisher minor felt very grateful to his brother for not thrashing him,
and went in to afternoon school meekly, though out of spirits.

"Well," said D'Arcy, as he took his place, "what's the latest?  Who are
you going to get into a mess now!  Has Yorke been swindling anybody
lately, or Ranger been getting tight!  You're bound to have some story
about somebody."

"I didn't mean-- It's not wicked to lose money," pleaded Fisher minor.
"I never thought--"

"That's just it," said Wally.  "You couldn't if you tried.  Dangle will
make a nice thing out of it, thanks to you.  Classic treasurer been and
collared Modern boys' money--that sort of thing--and they'll kick him
out and stick in one of their own lot, and call it triumph of honesty.
Oh, you beauty; you _can_ do things nicely when you try?"

"I wish I'd never come up here at all," moaned Fisher minor.

"Humph.  That would have been a bad go for Fellsgarth," said D'Arcy.
"Shut up--Forder's looking.  If we're lagged we shan't get in to the
meeting."

The dreaded misadventure did not occur; and punctually at the hour our
four young gentlemen trooped into Hall.  Everything was very quiet
there.  The place was only half full.  The Classics had turned up in
force, but the mutineering house was so far unrepresented.  Presently,
however, five juvenile figures might be seen marching arm in arm across
the Green, keeping a sharp look-out on every side.

Before they arrived in Hall, a solitary figure wearing the Modern
colours had made his way up to the seniors' end.  It was Corder, looking
very limp and haggard, and with a savage flash of the eyes which told
how ill "Coventry" was agreeing with his spirits.  The cheers, with
which he was greeted, due quite as much to his pluck in coming to-day as
to his exploit at the match last Saturday, appeared to disconcert rather
than please him, and he took a corner seat as far as possible from the
Classic seniors present.  When, however, Percy and Co. entered the Hall,
a much livelier demonstration ensued.  Cheers and compliments and pats
on the back showered fast on the youthful "blacklegs," and tended
greatly to exaggerate in their own eyes the importance of their action.

"We shall get jolly well welted for it, you fellows," said Percy, with
all the swagger of a popular martyr.  "Never mind; we aren't going to be
done out of Hall for anybody."

"At any rate, they won't hurt _you_ for it," cried Wally, disparaging.
"Kids like you won't hurt."

"We've come to see you cads don't get it all your own way," said Cash.
"That's what we've come for!"

"Ho, ho!  Hope you've brought your lunch.  You'll be kept here a day or
two, if you're going to wait for that!"

When Yorke and the other prefects arrived on the scene there were, of
course, loud cheers; but as the opposition was not there to make any
counter-demonstration, it was not quite as noisy as on former occasions.

Percy did, indeed, attempt to get up a little opposition at this stage
by calling for "three cheers for the Moderns"; but as he was left to
give them by himself--even his own adherents declining to be drawn into
cheers for Clapperton--the display fell rather flat.

The captain's speech was short and to the point.  Of course they knew
why the meeting was called.  There had been mutiny at Fellsgarth.
Fellows had deliberately set themselves against his authority as
captain, which was a minor thing, and against the success of Fellsgarth
in sports, which was a low and shabby thing.  (Cheers.)  He wasn't going
to mention names; but he meant to say this, that they had much better
dissolve the club right away--(No, no)--than not all pull together.
Last Saturday, as every one knew, they had been left utterly in the
lurch; and but for good luck, and the good play of some of the fifteen--
amongst whom, he was glad to say, was one fellow who had had the pluck
to act on his own judgment of what was due to the School--(loud and
prolonged cheers, in the midst of which Corder perked up, and looked
pleased)--they had held their own with a very scratch team.  They
couldn't expect to do as much again--(Why not?)--and it _was not_ fair
to the School to play matches without all their best men in the team.
The proposal he had to make was that unless the fellows now standing out
chose to return to their allegiance to the School within a week, all
future matches for the term should be scratched, and the club dissolved.

The captain's proposal caused considerable consternation.  Ridgway rose,
and said he considered the motion dealt far too leniently with the
mutineers.  He would say, drum them out of the club, and reorganise
without them.

Denton asked if it would not be more honest and straightforward to
summon them to the next match, and if they didn't turn up give them the
thrashing they deserved?

Fisher major said he supported the captain's proposal.  It was nonsense
their playing with scratch teams, and letting it be supposed that was
the best the School could do.  Some of the fellows on strike were no
doubt good players, and that made it all the more discreditable of them
to try to damage the School record by crippling the team.  They no doubt
hoped that they would be begged to rejoin on their--own terms.  Rather
than that, he was in favour of disbanding the club, and letting the
fellows devote their energy to running and jumping, and other sports,
where each fellow could distinguish himself independently of what any
others chose to do.  (Hear, hear.)

Ranger also supported Yorke's motion.  Very likely the mutineers would
crow, and say the club couldn't get on without them.  No more they
could, in a sense.  But he, for one, was not going to ask them to come
back, and would sooner break up the club, and let them have the
satisfaction of knowing they had injured Fellsgarth.

Amid loud cheers Corder followed.  He was sorry, he said, there was to
be no more football, but supposed there was nothing else they could do.
He was glad to see some Moderns present, even though they were only
juniors.  (Laughter.)  It showed that there were some fellows on the
Modern side that stuck by the School.  He fancied these youngsters could
take care of themselves.  He was glad to hear a human voice again.
(Laughter.)  It might be fun to some present, but he could assure them
it was none to him.  No one had spoken to him for four days.  He was cut
by his house, and had to thank even some of the juniors present for
assisting to make his life in Forder's miserable.  He didn't care much,
so far.  They might make him cave in, in the long run.  (No!  Stick
out!)  Let the fellow who cried "Stick out," come and try it.  His only
offence had been that he had played for the School.  To do anything for
the School was now considered a crime on the Modern side.  (Shame.)
Anyhow, he should vote for the captain's motion; and though he wasn't
particularly sweet on the Classics as a body, he was beginning to think
they weren't quite as bad as his own side.

Percy hereupon rose, amid derisive cheers.  He didn't know why the names
of him and his lot had been brought in; but he just wanted to say that
they were here to-day because they had a right to come, and weren't
going to be kept out by anybody--not if they knew it.  (Rather not!)  He
and his lot thought there wasn't much to choose between anybody,
especially the juniors of the Classic side, who thought they were jolly
clever, but were about the biggest stuck-uppest louts he-- (Order.  Kick
him out.)  He hoped the meeting would rally round the School shop, where
every one was treated alike, and got the best grub for the money of any
school going.  They were going to get some Ribston-- (Order.  Time.)
All right.  They shouldn't hear what he was going to say now.  (Loud
cheers.)

Yorke said they all seemed to be pretty much of the same mind; and he
would put his motion to the vote.

This accordingly was done, and carried without a dissentient voice.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

A BELEAGUERED GARRISON.

The decision arrived at by the club meeting speedily came to the ears of
the recalcitrant Moderns, and by no means pleased them.  They had
expected at least that some one would propose that they should be met
half-way, and appealed to, for the sake of the School, to abandon their
attitude.  That would have given them an opportunity of figuring in an
heroic light before Fellsgarth, and showing how, for the general good,
they could afford even to overlook the slight which had been put upon
them.

But now, so far from that, they figured as the party who had wrecked the
School clubs for the sake of a petty pique, and in their absence had
been quietly deposed along with every one else from office and
privilege, and left looking uncommonly foolish and uncommonly
ridiculous.

Yorke himself hardly realised, when he made his downright motion, that
he was dealing the hardest blow possible at the mutiny.  A mutiny is all
very well as long as there is some one to mutiny against.  But now, even
this luxury was denied them.

Naturally the wrath of Clapperton and his friends fell on the traitors
in their own camp whose presence at the meeting had made it impossible
to discredit it as entirely one-sided in its composition.

That Corder would go, every one was prepared for.  He had laid up for
himself yet one more rod in pickle, and should punctually taste its
quality.

But the mutiny of the juniors was a surprise.  No one imagined that
their threats at revolt were anything more than the ordinary bluster in
which these young braves notoriously dealt.  Had they sinned in
ignorance it would have mattered less.  But they had gone to the meeting
in deliberate defiance of their captain's order, and in the face of his
warning as to what the consequences of disobedience would be.

The discipline of the house was at an end if a flagrant act of
insubordination like this was to be allowed to pass unnoticed.  Besides,
if allowed to spread, other fellows would go over to the enemy, and the
"moral" effect of the strike would be at an end.

A peremptory summons was therefore dispatched to Percy and his friends
to appear before the prefects of their house that same evening.

"That all?" inquired Percy of the middle-boy who brought the message.
"We hear you.  You needn't stop."

"I'll tell him you'll come?" said the messenger.

"I don't mind what you tell him.  Cut out of our room, that's all.  We
aren't particular, me and my chaps; but we draw the line at louts."

"He says if you don't come--"

"What's to prevent him saying anything he likes?  Look here, young
Gamble," (Gamble was at least two years the senior of any boy present),
"if you don't cut your sticks, they'll be cut for you.  So there."

Gamble gave a general invitation to the party to come and try to tamper
with his sticks, and departed with a final caution as to the
desirability of obeying their captain.

"Lick," said Percy, when he had gone, "how much grub have we got in the
room?"

"What are you talking about?  You aren't hungry surely, after that go-in
at the shop?"

"Have we got enough for two days?"

The party opened their eyes, and began to suspect the drift of the
inquiry.

"No; but Maynard owes us a loaf, and Spanker some butter, and those kids
in Reynolds' study half a tongue."

"All right; go out and get it all in, sharp.  Scrape up all you can."

"What, are we going to have a blockade?"

"Rather.  You don't suppose we're going to cave in to Clapperton, do
you?"

"But we shan't want enough for two days, shall we?"

"Shan't we, that's all!  To-morrow's exeat day, and no school.  Next
day's Sunday, and next day exeat doesn't end till twelve.  We may have
to stick out three days."

"Whew! we _shall_ want a lot of grub," said Cash.

"You young pig; that's all you think about.  You'll have to go on jolly
short rations, I can promise you.  Do you know what we're going to do?"

No one had an idea what they were going to do.

"Do you know those four Classic kids," said Percy, "my younger brother
and his lot?  They've not been quite such cads lately as they used to
be, have they?"

"They've been a bit more civil," said Cottle.  "I suppose that's because
of the shop."

"What about them?" asked Ramshaw.

"Why, I fancy if we asked them, they might come over and back us up.  Of
course they'd have to bring their own grub; and we'd kick them out if
they weren't civil.  What do you say?"

"Rather a lark," said Lickford.

"All serene.  I'll go and see about it.  Keep it dark, whatever you do,
and mind you scrape up all the grub that's owing us.  There's no time to
lose, I say; Clapperton expects us in half an hour.  Wire in!"

By the end of half an hour the larder had been fairly well replenished.
Lickford and Cash had gone round on a general raid; recovering by force,
where persuasion failed, their outstanding loans, and in other cases
borrowing additional supplies in the same genial manner.  Among other
booty, they secured a tin of pressed beef from Spanker, who had to be
clouted on the head before he would "lend it," and some sardines from
another boy, who was thankful to find any one to take them off his hands
at any price.

Cottle and Ramshaw, acting on sealed orders from their leader, had been
round borrowing a screw-driver and screws, a few yards of rope, and
other material of war, among which was a squirt belonging to Reynolds,
who had been pleased to "swap" it for a couple of Greek stamps which
Cottle had to dispose of.

Many were the fears lest not only should Percy fail to secure the
services of the Classic juniors, but should himself be too late to take
part in the siege.  However, much to their relief, this was not so; as
presently he came over arm in arm with Wally (who carried a parcel under
his arm), followed at a respectful distance by D'Arcy, Ashby, and Fisher
minor, the bulkiness of whose pockets gave promise of a further addition
to the sinews of war.

By general consent the visitors slipped in, not in a body, but casually
one by one, and so escaped special observation.  As soon as they were
all assembled, Percy gave the order to screw up, and pile on the
barricades.

_Wally_, who was disposed to be patronising, snuffed up somewhat at his
brother's calm assumption of the command.

"Why didn't you say you wanted screws?" said he; "we've got one or two
long ones.  That's not the way to stick it in, young Lickford; make the
hole more sideways.  Here, I'll do it for you."

"I'll tell you what," said D'Arcy, "you chaps had better begin to move
up the bed against the door, in case they come before we're fast in.
Fire away.  Stick it close up, and young Lickford can stand on to it to
put in the screw."

"Come on, Cash; stick these parcels out of the way," said Ashby, handing
out the provender; "they'll be better in the cupboard.  Mind how you put
them in."

"You've got a knife, Cottle," said Fisher minor.  "Cut these bits of
wood into wedges to go under the door.  They'll make it pretty secure."

In this manner the Classic auxiliaries coolly took charge of the
arrangements before ever their hosts had time to realise that they had
been relegated to a back seat.

However, just now there was no time for arguing questions of precedence
and authority.  The enemy might be upon them at any moment, and they had
a lot to do before their outworks could be said to be in a proper state
of defence.

The screws in the door were driven hard home into the wainscot; the
wedges underneath were tightly fixed.  The bed, with bedding complete,
was drawn against the entry.  A second line of defence was thrown up of
chairs, chest of drawers, book-case, and wash-stand.  Beyond that were
stacked against the wall cricket bats, stumps, boxing-gloves, and other
dangerous-looking implements, for use in a last emergency.  At Percy's
suggestion, and under Wally's direction, an additional loophole was
bored in the panel of the door (in flagrant forgetfulness of the rights
of School property), through which, as well as through the ventilating
holes above, the enemy might be reconnoitred and operated on.

These preliminaries being complete, and Fisher minor having been perched
on the table (which was on the bed), with his eye to the loophole, the
company, to pass the time, resolved itself into a committee on the
School shop, and waited anxiously for the attack.

Percy was specially anxious, for he had enlisted his four recruits on
the distinct understanding there would be a row, and all the blame would
fall on his head if by any ill-luck the evening passed off quietly.

Already the Classic juniors were beginning to get impatient, and hinting
that they saw no fun in the proceeding so far, when Fisher minor
scrambled down from his perch and cried:

"Sh!--here comes somebody."

"About time," said Wally, taking possession of the squirt.

As he spoke, the footsteps halted at the door, and the handle turned.

"Lie low, you chaps," whispered Percy.  "Don't let them know you're here
to begin with.  Hullo! who's that?"

"Let me in!" cried Gamble, outside.

"Can't; we're busy," replied Lickford.

"We've got a committee meeting, and you'd better cut," cried Percy.

"Do you hear?" replied the ambassador; "let me in."

"There's plenty of room in your own study, ain't there?  Why don't you
go there?  We don't want you here."

"Cut your sticks, and learn your rotten Modern lessons," shouted Wally,
who began to be tired of being a listener.

Luckily, Cottle knocked over one of the chairs at this juncture, which
served to conceal the voice of the speaker from the ears outside.

"All right," said Gamble; "you'll catch it.  Clapperton sent me to tell
you if you don't come to his room directly, he'll come and fetch you
himself.  There!"

"Good evening," cried Ramshaw.  "Our love to them all at home."

D'Arcy, meanwhile, had mounted the bed, and by means of a pea-shooter
materially assisted in the departure of the discomfited envoy.

"Now we're getting livery," said Wally, proceeding to load his squirt
out of the jug.  "Better light the candle, one of you, and have some
light on the subject."

A terrible discovery ensued.  Neither candle nor matches could be found!
In a quarter of an hour daylight would depart, and after that--well,
the prospect was not brilliant, at any rate.  However, there was no time
to do anything but recriminate, which the company industriously did
until the sentinel again gave the signal to stand by.

"Look here," said Percy, "we'd better keep him jawing as long as he'll
stand it, and not let fly till he begins to get violent--eh?"

"All serene," said Wally; "that won't be long."

"No; and he'll bring the whole kit of prefects with him.  What a high
old time there'll be!" chuckled D'Arcy.

"There's one lucky thing," said Cash.  "Forder and his dame have gone
out for the evening; so we shan't hurt _their_ feelings."

"Look out--it's Clapperton," whispered the sentinel.

Clapperton tried the door, and on finding it fast, gave it a kick.

"Hello! who's there?"

"Open the door; let me in!"

"Who is it? that young cad Gamble again?" cried Percy, with a wink; the
company generally.

"No.  Do you hear?  Let me in!"

"Say what your name is.  How do we know you aren't a Classic cad?  Oh!
ow!"

This last interjection was in answer to a fraternal kick from behind.

"You know who I am," replied Clapperton.  "Let me in!"

"Very sorry, Corder, we can't let you in.  Clapperton says we're to cut
you, because you played a jolly sight too well last week."

"It's not Corder, it's me--Clapperton."

"Go on! no larks, whoever you are.  Clapperton's got something better to
do than go to tea-parties in fags' rooms.  Go and tell that to the
Clap-- Oh! ow!  I mean, try it on next door!"

"I tell you what," said Clapperton, whose temper, none of the best, was
rapidly evaporating, "if you young cads don't open the door instantly,
I'll break it open."

"If you do, we'll tell Clapperton.  He'll welt you for it.  _He_ won't
let you spoil our new paint, not if he knows it.  Good old Clappy?"

A thundering kick was the only reply, which shook the plaster of the
walls, and nearly sent Fisher minor headlong with terror off his perch.

This was getting serious.  But in Percy's judgment the time was not even
yet ripe for extreme measures.  The assailant might be given a little
rope yet.

He took it, and worked himself into a childish passion against the
refractory door, encouraged by the friendly gibes of the besieged.  "Go
it!"

"Two to one on his boots!"

"Keep your temper!"

"Come in!"  "Stick to it!"  "One more and you'll do it!" and so on.

It was hardly likely that the spectacle of the captain of the house in a
towering rage, toying to kick his way into a fag's room, would long be
allowed to continue unheeded by the rest of the inhabitants of Forder's,
and in a very short time new voices without apprised the beleaguered
garrison that the enemy was sitting down in force.

Brinkman's voice could be heard demanding admission, and presently
Dangle's; while a _posse_ of mercenary middle-boys relieved Clapperton
of the kicking.  The stout old door held out bravely and defied all
their efforts.

Presently a pause was made, and Dangle's voice outside was heard
demanding a parley.

"Young Wheatfield," he said, "it will be wiser for you to open the door
at once.  If you don't it will be broken open, and you needn't expect to
get off easy then.  Take my advice, and don't be a fool."

"Thanks awfully," said Percy.  "I and my chaps are just going to sit
down to tea.  Wish you could join us, whoever you are.  We've got as
much right to have tea in our study as you have in yours.  That's right!
Kick away!  Never mind the varnish!  Somebody tapping at the study
door."

"It's no good wasting time over young asses like them," Brinkman was
heard to say.

"I don't mean to go now," said Clapperton.  "They shall have such a
hiding, all of them, as they won't forget in a hurry."

"It's funny how when we seniors strike against the School it's so noble,
and when these juniors strike against us it's so inexcusable," said
Fullerton.  "Strikes always did puzzle me."

"If, instead of talking rubbish, you'd go and fetch Robert with a
crowbar to smash open the door," said Clapperton, "you'd be more use."

It was getting quite dark in the room by this time, but Wally could be
heard refilling his squirt at the jug, "I mean to start now," said he.

Percy came beside him.

"All serene," said he; "but why use, water when there's ink?"

"My eye!  I never thought of that.  Rather!  I say, old man, while I
remember it, I'll write home this week.  Don't you fag, good old Percy."

"Oh no, it's my turn."

"Oh, let me.  Is that the ink-pot?  Hold it tight while I get a good go
at it."

"Suppose we tickle them up with the pea-shooter first," suggested
Lickford.  "Mind how you go over the chairs, Cash," added he, as that
hero in the dark got entangled in the second line of fortifications.

"All serene--wire away!  Young Ashby, you'd better mix up some soap and
coal-dust in the water for use when the ink's done."

By this time the attack without had redoubled, and Cash, mounting up to
the loophole, began to operate on the besiegers with his pea-shooter.
He had to guess where to shoot, for though the gas was alight in the
passage, he was unable for anatomical reasons to look and shoot through
the same hole at the same time.  However, he had the satisfaction of
feeling sure his fire was taking effect, by the aggravated exclamations
of the besiegers, who vowed terrific vengeance for this fresh insult.
In due time the marksman fell short of ammunition and was carefully
helped down from his post in the dark, while Wally and Percy, gingerly
carrying the squirt, ascended in his place.

"Hand up the basin," said Wally, "and get another lot of water ready."

"I say," said Fisher minor, who was always being seized by heroic
impulses, "if you could let me down out of the window by the rope, I'd
be able to get a candle."

"Good old `How now!' awfully good notion," said Wally.  "You chaps see
to that, while my young brother and I work the squirt.  Don't tell
anybody what's up, young Fisher, and get back as soon as you can."

So, while the squirt was carefully being levelled in the face of the
enemy, Fisher minor, with the end of the rope round his waist, was
swinging precariously in mid-air out of the window, heartily repenting,
until his feet touched _terra firma_, of his rash and desperate
undertaking.

Before he was safe, the great attack had been delivered through the
loophole.  The kickers had receded from the door a pace or two in order
to get up impetus for a combined onslaught, and Clapperton with a poker
in his hand was advancing to annihilate the lock, when Percy, who was
reconnoitring from the ventilating holes, gave the signal to have at
them.

Whereupon Wally let fly with all his might, and converted half of the
enemy, their captain included, into Ethiopians.

The effect was instantaneous.  The four-footed kick did not come off.
Clapperton's poker fell with a clatter on the floor, and a howl went up
which electrified both besiegers and besieged.

"Look alive now!" said Wally.  "Let 'em have the water!  Keep it up!"

For five minutes an almost uninterrupted flow of coloured water poured
through the loophole and kept the enemy at bay.  But even a jugful will
not last for ever, and presently the squirt gave a dismal groan on the
bottom of the basin.

Almost at the same moment an ominous crack proclaimed that the good old
door was giving way by degrees under the now renewed attack of the
besiegers.

"They'll have it, after all," said Percy.

"Tell you what!  Suppose we slip out by the window, and you chaps come
and have supper in our room.  Rather a lark, eh?  It's getting a bit
slow here.  Nice sell for them too.  Besides, they can't get at you over
on our side."

This hospitable invitation fitted in with the humour of the company
generally, particularly as every moment the door gave a more doubtful
sound than before.

In three minutes the whole party was on the grass below, where Fisher
minor, returning breathless, with a candle and matches, encountered
them.

"Come on, you chaps," said Wally.  "I'd give sixpence to see how they
look when they find we've gone--ha! ha!"

They salved their honour with a keen sense of the humour of the
situation, and followed their host across the Green in the dark, not at
all sorry to have a harbour of refuge in sight, though very loth to
admit that this rearward movement was a retreat.

At the door of Wakefield's, to their consternation, they met Ranger.

"What on earth are all you youngsters up to at this hour?"

"It's all right," said Wally.  "The shop committee, you know.  We're
going to talk things over in my room.  Come on, you Modern kids.  We'll
make an exception for you this once, and let you into Wakefield's; won't
we, Ranger?  But it mustn't occur again."

Yet another peril awaited them before they were safe in port.  This time
it was Mr Stratton on the stairs.

"Ah, here you are--all of you," said he.  "I came to look for you.  I
want to hear how the shop is doing."

"Very well, thank you, sir.  I say, Mr Stratton," said Wally, with a
presence of mind which moved the admiration of his friends, "would you
mind coming to a committee meeting in my and my chaps' room!  We can
show you the things we want ordered next week, if you don't mind."

"Certainly; I'll come.  I'm delighted to find you're sticking so well to
the business."

And so it happened that when at last Percy's door succumbed, and the
besiegers rushed in, vowing vengeance and slaughter, to find the room
empty, the nine innocents were sitting prettily round the table in
Wally's room with Mr Stratton in the chair, deciding that until
November was out it would be premature to order oranges for the
Fellsgarth shop.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

HAWK'S PIKE.

Victory has its drawbacks, like everything else.  The brilliant retreat
of the Modern juniors and their auxiliaries under the enemy's fire was
all very well as a strategic movement.  But when it came to deciding
what to do next, the difficulties of the situation became painfully
apparent.

Mr Stratton stayed half an hour chatting over the shop affairs, and
then rose to go.

"Good night, boys.  It's time for Mr Forder's boys to be back in their
house."

This unpleasant reminder had a very damping effect on the conviviality
of the party generally.  As soon as the master had gone, Wally said--

"It strikes me you Modern kids are in a bit of a mess."

"I'm afraid your bedroom will be a little untidy," said Fisher minor.

"The best thing you can do is to climb back by the window," suggested
D'Arcy.

"I don't fancy you'll want a warming-pan to-night," said Ashby.

This was all very nice and helpful.  The heroes looked at one another
dismally.

"We must lump it," said Percy.  "They can't do anything very bad."

"Can't they?" said Cottle.  "Were you ever licked by Brinkman?"

"No," said the others.

"All right--I have been--that's all."  This sounded alarming.  D'Arcy
said--

"Why don't you come over to our side, and out that lot!  We could have
no end of larks if you were Classics, instead of little Modern beasts."

"Our side's as good as yours," snapped Lickford.  "All serene; you'd
better go and join them," said Wally.

This did not advance the argument much further.  Of course it was out of
the question to go and tell tales to the Classic prefects, or even to
their own master.  Nor was the suggestion of sleeping that night on the
Classic side hailed with enthusiasm by either party.

On the whole D'Arcy's suggestion of getting back by the window seemed
the most hopeful.  When once back they would go straight to bed, where
they would be safe for a while.  Then, if they could manage to rise at
the supernatural hour of six, they might succeed in evading the
penalties of rebellion for another day.  For to-morrow being exeat day,
they would be free to roam where they liked.  And they had a very good
idea that wherever it was, they would give Forder's house a very wide
berth.

"Tell you what!" exclaimed Wally, slapping his brother on the back so
hard as to cause him to yell loud enough to bring every prefect of
Fellsgarth on to the spot.  "Tell you what, old chappies; of course we
will!  Why ever didn't we think of it before--eh?"

"Think of what?"

"Why, we'll go up Hawk's Pike, of course."

"Of course we will," said everybody.

What mattered it to _them_ that Hawk's Pike had defied the ordinary
tourist for generations?  _They_ weren't ordinary tourists, or anything
like.

"You come over for us at six," said Wally.  "Bring the grub we left in
your room.  It'll be a regular sell for all those chaps.  We'll make a
day of it."

It seemed a magnificent solution of the problem; and on the strength of
it the five truants departed, not without misgivings, for their
quarters.

The rope was still dangling from their window, and Cash, whose father
was in the Navy, was selected by general consent as the member of the
party best qualified to make the first ascent.  He modestly tried to
induce some one else to assume the honour, but he was outvoted, and,
devoutly hoping to find the coast clear of the enemy, he addressed
himself to the venture.

It was not particularly arduous for a decent climber, and in a couple of
minutes his companions saw him swing himself on to the ledge, and
disappear into the room.

In a moment he put out his head.

"All clear," said he.  "The door's smashed in, and all the things kicked
about anyhow; but there's no one about."

That was the main thing.  The company speedily followed, materially
assisted in their clamber by sundry knots tied in the rope by the
ingenious Cash, and by his energetic hauling from above.

The programme was carried out without a hitch.  Without waiting for the
bed-bell they one and all presented themselves to the dormitory dame,
and requested permission to turn in, pleading severe fatigue (which was
by no means imaginary) as the reason for this unwonted haste.  So
smartly was the retirement effected, that no one was aware of their
return to their house until half an hour later.  When the dormitory
filled up, their five noses were discernible peeping from out the
sheets.

Whatever chastisement the prefects may have had in store for them
evidently could not be administered at present.  For a disturbance in
the dormitory was a capital offence in Mr Forder's eyes, and, as the
master's room was adjacent, and he was known to have returned and to be
within earshot, the only thing possible was secretly to promise the
rebels a warm time of it as soon as they woke next morning.

But Revenge sleeps sounder than Caution.  As five struck in the clock
tower, Ramshaw, who had had it on his mind he might oversleep himself,
and, in consequence, had been up looking at his watch every ten minutes
during the night, slipped finally out of bed, and roused each of his
partners.  He expected no gratitude for his good offices, and was not
disappointed.  The sleepers growled and grunted at his well-meant
efforts, pulled the clothes over their heads, called him unfriendly
names, threatened him with untold vengeance, and scouted all idea of
danger by delay, till he was almost tired of trying.  But by the end of
three-quarters of an hour, with the aid of a moist sponge and other
persuasives, he got them to their feet well awake to a sense of the
undertaking before them.

They still grumbled--at the cold, and the darkness, and the fatigue, and
blamed Ramshaw for all three.  They heartily despised themselves for
their promise to the Classic boys last night, and still more for the row
with their own prefects, which was the cause for all this inconvenience.
But as they gradually slipped on their clothes, and the warm bed
receded more into the background, they cheered up and recovered their
courage.

There was no difficulty in getting out.  The dormitory door stood open.
Brinkman, who was the prefect on duty, lay snoring loud and long in the
end bed.  Mr Forder's bedroom was on the safe side of a brick wall.
Carrying their boots in their hands they slunk off to their study, where
they made a hasty selection from the miscellaneous provisions stored
over-night, and then, one by one, solemnly slid down the rope.

Once on the grass, in the chill, dark air, depression fell upon them a
second time.  Their thoughts returned to the snug beds they had left.
Even Brinkman and Clapperton could not take it out of them more than
this white frost and nipping air.  However, the bell began to toll six;
and the thought of their companions in discomfort spurred them on to
energy.  They crawled across the Green to Wakefield's.

Four ghostly figures were visible in the feeble dawn, hovering under the
wall.

"Got the grub?"

It was the cheery voice of Wally Wheatfield, at sound of which the
pilgrims took comfort, and were glad they had turned out after all.

The first thing was to get clear of Fellsgarth, which was easily
accomplished, as no one was about.  Even had they been observed, beyond
the general wonder of seeing nine juniors taking a morning walk at 6
a.m., there was nothing to interfere with their liberty.  As soon as
they got into Shargle Woods a brief council of war was held.

"It's a jolly stiff climb," said Wally.

"I've got a compass," said Ashby, as if that disposed of the difficulty.
Ashby had an ulster, which just then seemed to some of his comrades a
still more enviable possession.

"How many miles?" asked Lickford.

"Miles?  Who ever reckoned mountains by miles?  It's three hours to the
top."

"That'll be nine o'clock," wisely observed Cash.

"Who knows the way up?"  Percy asked.

"Way up?  Can't you see it?" said Wally.  "When you get to the bottom,
you go straight up."

"All very well for you.  I can't walk up a perpendicular cliff.  I dare
say I could come straight down if I tried," submitted Percy.

"Oh, there are lots of paths.  It's as easy as pot," said Wally.
"Suppose we have a bit of grub now.  It'll be less to carry, you know."

Whereupon an attack was made on the provisions, with the result that
considerably less was left to carry up.

The meal ended, a start was made in earnest, and the party trailed down
the valley towards the lake at an easy jog-trot, and came to the
conclusion that ascending a pike was ridiculously simple work.

By the time they reached the lake, and began to strike up the winding
lane that led round to the rearward slopes of the great mountain, an
hour had passed.

"Nearly half-way there," said Fisher minor, hoping some one would
corroborate the statement.

"Oh, we don't count that bit we've come anything," said Wally.  "We're
just starting up now."

"Oh," said Fisher, again hoping to be confirmed.  "Then it's only two
hours' climb?"

"That's all you know about it.  Wisdom used to say he could do it in
three hours from the lake-side.  But he was a wonner to go.  Come along;
wire in, you chaps."

"Where did Wisdom get killed?" asked Percy, by way of a little genial
conversation.

"I heard over the other side, down the cliffs above the lake.  He got
caught in a mist and lost his way."

"How do you know this is the right way up?" asked Cottle.

"Because it's as plain as the nose on your face," retorted the guide.

It was a long dreary pull up the lower slope, over the wet grass and
through the bracken, and Fisher minor before he accomplished the first
stage was heartily sick of Hawk's Pike.  One or two of his companions,
to tell the truth, were not quite as enamoured of the expedition as they
tried to appear, but they kept their emotions to themselves.  Wally was
the only member of the party who was uniformly cheerful, and no one, not
even Percy, exactly liked to incur his contempt by appearing to enjoy
the clamber less than he.

"Come on, you chaps," cried the leader as he staggered to the top of the
slope.  "Keep it up.  What a crow it will be for us, when we get to the
top!"

"I suppose," gasped Fisher minor, as he threw himself on the grass,
"we're half-way now?"

"Getting on," said Wally.  "I dare say on the top of that next ridge we
shall be able to see the top."

"What, isn't that the top?" said poor Fisher, craning his head up
towards the beetling crag above them.

"Top?  No, that's the knob half-way down we see from the school window.
The stiff part begins after that."

Really Wally, if he had tried to be heartless, could not have succeeded
better.  Had he but expressed some hint at regret that the distance was
so long, or vouchsafed the least semblance of a growl at the labour
involved, they would have loved him.  As it was, they durst do nothing
but hate him, and accept his information joyously.

"That's nothing," said Lickford.  "I feel quite fresh; don't you, you
chaps?"

"Rather!" they chimed in plaintively.

"Better get on," said Wally, after a few minutes more.  How they loathed
Wally then!

The new slope was worse than the first; for the grass was more boggy,
and big stones here and there jarred their tender feet.  Besides, it
grieved them to see Wally zigzagging steadily on ahead, utterly
regardless of their distress behind.  Yet no one exactly liked to stop.
Had any one had the courage to do so, they would have gone down like a
row of ninepins.

Let no one charge these boys with chicken-heartedness.  On the contrary,
they worked up that slope like heroes; all the more so that they were
ready to drop, and durst not for very shame.  There is no hero like the
coward who compels himself to be brave.  Many a man in history has
become famous for an exploit that cost him far less than this climb cost
the Fellsgarth juniors.  Therefore let this record at least award the
the credit they deserve.--It was some satisfaction, when the knob was
reached, and they looked up at the black towering crags above, to see
that even Wally seemed staggered for a moment.

"We may as well have a rest and some grub before we tackle that lot,"
said he.  "What do you say?"

The motion was carried unanimously.

"It's eleven o'clock," said Cash.  "We've been five hours already."

"Thank goodness we've broken the back of it," said Fisher minor.

"I don't know so much about that," said Percy.

"We shan't get up that as easily as we've done so far, I fancy."

"Rather not," said Wally, cheerfully, with his mouth full of sandwich.
"I believe it's not so bad after we get past those rocks though, on to
the top."

"What," cried Fisher, "isn't _that_ the top then?"

"Bless you, no.  We have to go down a bit when we get there, and cross a
bog, and then the real pike begins."

The information was received with dead silence, and the party sat grimly
munching their lunch with upturned eyes.

"Which way do we go?" asked Cottle presently.

"I suppose up by the stream.  It's bound to lead up to the bog."

The stream in question was a torrent which fell in a series of leaps
through a narrow gorge in the rocks.

Fisher minor looked very blue.

"I wish I'd got my strong boots," said he.

The dismal tone in which he uttered the words startled the others.

"I say, young Fisher," said D'Arcy, "you're not done yet, are you!"

Fisher minor had not the pluck to say "Yes."

"I'll be game after this rest.  I got a little blown up that last bit,
that's all."

"It doesn't look awfully far now," said Ashby.

"It's further than it looks.  Come on; let's be jogging," said Wally.

The new ascent, which consisted chiefly in clambering from stone to
stone up the rocky ravine, was less exhausting than the tramp up the
bog, and as Wally was no better at this sort of climbing than any of the
rest, he did not dishearten them by getting hopelessly ahead, but kept
with the party.  Occasionally they had to help one another up a
specially stiff ledge, and this mutual accommodation was an additional
source of comfort to the weak goers.  Progress was very slow.  Cash,
having hauled himself up on to a little platform of moss, looked at his
watch and was alarmed to find it was past one.  The huge ravine, at the
far head of which they could see the open sky, seemed a tremendous
distance yet.  And after that, according to Wally, was to come the bog
and the cliffs beyond, on which Wisdom lost his life.

Yet none of these things was quite so bad as the rolling up of some
fleecy clouds behind them, which effaced the view below, and seemed to
be crawling up the mountain in pursuit of them.

Cash pointed this out to Wally, who grunted.

"We shall miss the view from the top," said he.

"If we ever get there," said Cash.

On they scrambled again, casting every now and then a longing look
upward at the grim ravine head, and now and then an anxious glance
behind at the fast overhauling clouds.

"We're bound to get out of it up there," sang out Wally.

But almost as he spoke the light mist swept past him, blotting out
everything but the boulder he stood on and a rift of the dashing water
at his feet.

The clouds had befriended Fisher minor.  They did what he durst not do;
ordered the party to halt.

"Where are you?" shouted Wally from the invisible.  "Here; where are
you?"

"Stay there; and I'll come to you."

Slowly the party foregathered, and stood huddled in the blinding mist on
a flat rock.

"It's blowing over," said Wally.  "We'd better make back for the hill-
side, and get out of this ravine till it clears up."

It was no easy task scrambling back, down that difficult way, over
boulders already made slippery by the moist mist, and not able to see
four yards ahead.  The clouds poured up to meet them in column upon
column, growing denser and wetter every minute.  At last, how they
scarcely knew, they came down to where the rush of the water ceased and
the stones gave place to wet grass.

"We must be somewhere near where we sat down last," said Ashby.  "Whew!
it's cold."

"The thing is," said Percy, "aren't we too much out to the left?
There's no sign of a path that I can see."

"This looks like one," said a voice ahead, which they recognised as
Wally's.  "Come along--this way."

They followed as well as they could, and groped about for the path.
Then they shouted.

Wally replied out of the mist.

"Stay there a bit--it's not a path.  I'll yell when I've got it."

They waited, and for five minutes listened anxiously for the signal.
Then they thought they heard it away to the right, and floundered off in
pursuit.  But after a little they discovered that they were going
uphill.

"Hadn't we better go back to where we were," said Cash, "or we may miss
him?"

It occurred to most of the party that they had missed him already.
Still, they decided to go back.

Presently they distinctly heard what sounded like a voice below them.

"That must be he.  Yell!"

They shouted, and again there seemed to come a faint response.

"All right," said Percy.  "Stay where you are, and I'll go and fetch him
up."

And he vanished into the mist.

"What's the time?" said Ashby, as the party stood dismally waiting.

"Half-past four.  It's a good job it doesn't get dark till six."

"Only an hour and a half," said Cottle; "I wish those chaps would come."

But though they strained their ears and eyes, no sign of the missing
ones came; nothing but the swish of the rain and the whistle of the wind
through the grass.

"We'd better go on," said D'Arcy presently; "they'll probably get down
some other way.  Look sharp, or it will be dark."

So they started at a fast walk down the boggy slope.

"Keep close," said D'Arcy after a time.  "Are you all there?"

Everybody answered for himself, but not for his neighbour.

"You there, young Fisher minor?"

"Yes," replied Fisher's voice from the rear.

He seemed so near that they started on again.

But after another five minutes, Ashby, who was last but one, shouted
again.

"Where are you, Fisher minor?"

There was no answer.

"Wait a bit, you fellows.  Fisher minor's behind."

But no answer came from that direction either.

"Here's a go," said Ashby to himself.  "That kid Fisher's gone lame, and
he'll be lost if I don't wait for him."

So he dismally turned back, shouting and whistling as he went.

The clouds all round grew duller and heavier in the fading light, and
the wind-blown rain struck keenly on the wanderer's cheek.

"That kid," said Ashby to himself, as he sturdily tramped through the
marsh, "ought not to have come.  He's not up to it."

But despite all his shouting and whistling and cooeying, not a sound
came out of the mist but the wind and the driving of the rain.

Still Ashby could not bring himself to leave the "kid" in the lurch.
Even if he did not find him it would be better to--

"Ah! what was that?"

He clapped his hands to his mouth and shouted against the wind with all
his might.

His voice was flung back in his face; but with it there came the feeble
sound of a "coo-ey" somewhere near.

Ashby sprang to it like a drowning man to a straw.  If it was only a
lost sheep it would be some company.  For ten minutes he beat round,
shouting all the time, and once or twice fancying he heard an answer.

Then suddenly he came upon a great boulder, against which leaned Fisher
minor, whimpering and shivering.

"Here you are!" said Ashby, joyously.  "Thank God for it!  I gave you up
for lost.  The others are gone on.  Come on.  Hang on my arm, old hoss."

"I can't; I'm too fagged to go on.  I'm awfully sleepy, Ashby.  You go
on; I'll come presently."

Ashby's reply was prompt and vigorous.  He took his fellow-junior by the
arm and began to march him down the slope as fast, almost faster than
his weary legs would carry him.

And as they started, the last of the light died out of the mist, and
left them in blank darkness.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

ROLLITT MAKES A RECORD FOR FELLSGARTH.

The Modern seniors had slept on soundly that morning, secure of their
prey.  The military operations of the preceding evening, although they
resulted in the night of the besieged, had not tended to the glory of
the besiegers.  Indeed, when the door had at last been broken in and it
was discovered that the birds had flown, a titter had gone round at the
expense of Messrs. Clapperton, Dangle, and Brinkman, which had been
particularly riling to those gentlemen.

When in the morning the birds were found to have flown once more, the
position of the seniors became positively painful.  Fullerton, as usual,
did not salve the wound.

"I should say--not that it matters much to me--that that scores another
to the rebels," said he.  "How very naughty of them not to stay and be
whopped, to be sure!"

"The young cads!" growled Clapperton, who had the grace to be perfectly
aware that he had been made ridiculous.  "I don't envy them when I get
hold of them."

"No more do I," said Fullerton, "with their door off its hinges.  It
will be very draughty."

"Do shut up.  Why don't you go and join the enemy at once, if you're so
fond of them?" said Dangle.

"Well," said Clapperton, "they will keep; but we must have it out with
Corder now.  It's no use simply cutting him; he'll have to be taught
that he can't defy the house for nothing.  Go and tell him to come,
Brinkman."

But Corder's back was against the wall, literally and metaphorically.

To Brinkman's demand (almost the first voice he had heard speaking to
him for a week) he returned a curt refusal.

"Well, I'll make you come," said Brinkman.  Whereupon Corder retreated
behind his table and invited the interloper to begin.

To dodge round and round a study table after a nimble boy is not a very
dignified operation for a prefect, particularly when the object of his
chase is a prefect too; and Brinkman presently abandoned the quest and
went off, breathing threatenings and slaughter, for reinforcements.

So did Corder.  Less sensitive than his junior fellow-martyrs, he
marched straight across to Yorke's study.  The captain was away, but in
the adjoining room he found Fisher major and Denton, poring over their
endless accounts.

"You two," said Corder, "you're prefects.  You're wanted over on the
other side to stop bullying."

"Who's being bullied?"

"I am.  I've been cut dead for a week.  I'm sick of it.  Now they're
going to lick me.  I'd take my chance against them one at a time, but I
can't tackle three of them."

"Is it for playing in the match?"

"Yes, that and going to the meeting.  Nothing else.  I'd go to twenty a
day, if I had the chance, to spite them."

"Who are bullying you?"

"Clapperton, Brinkman, and Dangle, of course."

"I tell you what," said Denton, "we couldn't go over.  We've no
authority.  But there's nothing to prevent you staying here and letting
them fetch you.  Then we can interfere."

"All serene," said Corder; "I hope they will come.  I say, I wish you'd
let me wait here and hear you fellows talk.  I've not had a word spoken
to me for a week.  I can tell you it's no joke.  I laughed at it at
first, and thought it would be nice rather than otherwise.  But after
two days, you chaps, it gets to be decidedly slow; you begin to wonder
if it isn't worth caving in.  But that would be _such_ a howling come
down, when all you've done is to do what you had a right to do--or
rather what you're bound to do--play up for the School."

"And jolly well you played too," said Usher.

"It was a lucky turn.  You know I was so awfully glad to be in the
fifteen, and felt I could do anything.  Of course the lucky thing was my
getting past their forwards, and then--" And then Corder bunched into a
delighted account of the never-to-be-forgotten match, during which the
cloud passed away from his face, the light came back to his eyes, and
the spirit into his voice.

"What business have they to stop me," said he, "or bully me for it?"

"None.  And Yorke, when he hears of it, will report it to the doctor."

"No, don't let him do that.  What's the use?  If I can stay here it's
all right."

An hour later, about the time that the young mountaineers were beginning
to look out for their second wind on the lower slope, Dangle came across
in a vicious temper.

He had not come to look for Corder, the sight of whom in the sanctuary
of a Classic study took him aback.

"That's where you're sneaking, is it?" said he.  "I'm not surprised."

"Not much need to sneak from _you_.  It's three against one I object
to," said Corder.  "But if you like to fetch Clapperton and Brinkman
over here, we can have it out comfortably now."

"You must think yourself uncommonly important if you suppose we're going
to trouble about an ass like you," said Dangle.  "I never once thought
of you."

"What have you come for, then?" said Fisher.  "Hadn't you better wait
till you're invited before you come where you're not wanted?"

"I've come on club business, and I've a perfect right to come.  You
fellows, I hear, have taken it into your heads to dissolve the club."

"What of that?  Why didn't you come and vote against it if you didn't
like it?"

"Thank you.  It wasn't quite good enough.  What I want to know is, what
is the treasurer going to do with the money?  I suppose that's hardly
going to be treated as a perquisite for him?"

Fisher major looked troubled.  He had dreaded this awkward question for
days.  For the lost money was still missing.

"You know it's nothing of the kind."

"What are you going to do with it, then?"

"That's for the club to decide.  If you'd come to the meeting you could
have proposed something."

"It's funny how sore you are about that precious hole-and-corner meeting
of yours.  How much is there on hand?"

"You'll know presently."

"I dare say--as soon as you've hit on a dodge for getting over that
little deficiency of four or five pounds--eh?"

Fisher major looked up in astonishment.  How had the fellow heard about
that?

Dangle laughed.

"You thought it was a snug little secret of your own, didn't you?
You're mistaken.  And you're mistaken if you think we aren't going to
get at the bottom of it."

Fisher major rose to his feet.

"Look here, Dangle," said he; "do you mean to insinuate that _I've_
taken the club money!"

"I never said so."

"Or that I was going to cook the accounts so that it should not be
known?"

"I didn't mean _you_ were."

"Whom did you mean?  Me?" said Denton.

"No; I didn't say anybody," said Dangle, beginning to feel himself in a
fix.  "All I meant was, we want to know what's become of the money?"

"You don't want to know more than I do," said Fisher major.  "I'd have
handed over the money days ago, if I could only have found it."

"Do you suspect any one?" said Dangle.

"Suspect?  No.  No one comes here that would be likely to take it."

"You leave it about, though.  I've noticed that myself.  Who's your
fag?"

"As honest a man as you, every bit, and that's saying a good deal for
_you_," retorted Fisher major, hotly.

"Keep your temper.  Who's study is that next yours?"

"That's Yorke's."

"No: on the other side."

"That's Rollitt's.  I suppose you're going to insinuate--"

"Stop a bit," said Dangle, suddenly, turning to close the door before he
proceeded.  "When did you first miss the money?"

"You're uncommonly interested in the accounts," said Fisher; "if you
want to know so much, it was ten days ago."

"I'm interested because I've an idea.  When did you get in the
subscriptions?"

"They were all in a week before the first Rendlesham match, the match
where you--"

Fisher major stopped.

Dangle took no notice of the broken taunt, and said--

"Look here, Fisher.  There's no love lost between you and me, and it
doesn't affect me."

"Or me."

"For all that, I don't care to see you or the clubs robbed without
giving you a friendly hint."

"You're very kind.  Who is the culprit?  The doctor?"

"No; _Rollitt_.  Stay," said he, waving down the interruption, "I
shouldn't be fool enough to say it unless I was pretty sure.  Tell me
this, Fisher; when you go out and leave money about do you lock your
door?"

"No.  We don't have to do that this side."

"Did you ever see Rollitt in here?"

"No."

"Do you know that on the first half-holiday this term Rollitt nearly
came to grief on the river?"

"What on earth has that to do with it?"

"Everything.  You heard of it?  Your young brother was with him, of
course.  And you heard that he lost Widow Wisdom's boat over the falls."

"Yes," said Fisher, suddenly beginning to see the drift of the cross-
examination.

"And you heard that the very next day he bought her a new one for five
pounds?"

"Yes, I did; but whatever right have you to connect that with the
missing money?"

"Wait a bit.  You were away all that afternoon, weren't you!"

"Yes."

"I wasn't.  I happened to come over to look for you, and found you were
out.  The only fellow I met in the house was Rollitt.  He'd just got
back, and I met him at the door of this room.  There, you can make what
you like of it.  Even a Classic knows what twice two makes."

And he turned on his heel and left the room.

"There's goes a thoroughbred cad for you," said Denton.

"I don't know how we came to let him go without a kicking," said Fisher.

"Shall I call to him to come back?" asked Corder.

"Of course," said Fisher major, "it _is_ a curious coincidence about
Rollitt.  But I never thought of connecting the two things together
before."

"No.  It's utter guesswork on Dangle's part."

"If it comes to that," said Corder, "if Dangle was over here that
afternoon, why shouldn't he have collared it as well as Rollitt?"

"He has any amount of money.  He's not hard up, like Rollitt."

"All I can say is," said Denton, "I wish that cad had kept his
suspicions to himself."

The object of these suspicions, meanwhile, blissfully unconscious of the
interest with which he was being remembered at Fellsgarth, was utilising
his holiday in the prosecution of his favourite sport.

This time he did not fish from a boat, nor did he affect the upper
stream.  He tried the lower reach; and not very successfully.  For he
had never been able to replace the tackle lost on the eventful afternoon
when Widow Wisdom's boat had gone over the falls.  He had his fly-book
still, and had come across an old reel which, fitted to a makeshift rod
with common twine, had to do duty until he could afford a regular new
turnout.  It was better than nothing, but the fish seemed somehow to get
wind of the fact that they were not being treated with proper respect,
and refused to have more to do than they could help with irregular-
looking apparatus.

Rollitt put up with their unreasonableness for a long time that morning
and afternoon.  With infinite patience he tried one fly after another,
and either bank in turn.  He gave them a chance of being hooked under
the falls, or right down on the flats by the lake.  But it was no go.
They wouldn't be tempted.

At last, as it was growing dusk, he became conscious that it had been
raining fast for half an hour, and that he was wet through.  He looked
up and saw a grim pall of wet lying over the lake and all up the side of
Hawk's Pike, of which only the lower slope was distinguishable through
the mist.  It was not a promising evening; and Rollitt, now he came to
think of it, might as well go back to Fellsgarth as stand about here.

So he collected his tackle and turned homeward.  His path from the lake
brought him across the track which leads round to the back of the
mountain; and he was just turning in here when he heard what sounded
like a halloo on the hill-side.  It was probably only a shepherd calling
his dog, but he waited to make sure.

Yes, it was a shout, but it sounded more like a sheep than a man.
Rollitt shouted back.  A quick response came, and presently out of the
mist a shadowy form emerged running down the slope, hopping over the
boulders, and making for the lane.

A minute more and Wally presented himself.

"Hullo, is that you, Rollitt?  I thought I was lost.  I say, have you
seen the others?"

Rollitt shook his head.

"Whew!  I made sure they'd come down.  I say, what a go if they're lost
up there, a night like this?"

Rollitt looked up at the dim mountain-side and nodded again.

"I thought I was on a path, you know, and hallooed to them.  They didn't
hear, so I went back for them, and--so we've missed."

"Who!" said Rollitt.

"Do you know my young brother Percy, a Modern kid?  He was one, and all
our lot, you know, D'Arcy and Ashby and Fisher minor and--"

"Fisher minor," said Rollitt, suddenly becoming interested; "up there?"

"Yes--he's the lame horse of the party--not up to it.  What's up, I
say?"

Rollitt had suddenly deposited his rod under the wall, and quitting the
path was beginning to strike up the base of the hill.

"Go, and bring guides," he growled.

"You'll get lost, to a dead certainty.  I say, can't I come too?" said
the boy, looking very miserable.

"No.  Fetch guides.  Come with them.  Quick."

There were no guides to be had nearer than Penchurch, four miles off,
and Wally, very cold and wet and hungry and footsore, with a big load on
his heart as he thought of Percy, pulled himself together with an effort
and stumped off.

Rollitt strode on up the slope in the gathering night.  Cold and weather
mattered little to him, still less did danger.  But Fisher minor
mattered very much.  For Percy or any of the rest he might probably have
stayed where he was; but for the one boy in Fellsgarth he oared about he
would cheerfully go over a precipice.

Every now and again he stood still and shouted.  But in the wind and
rain it was impossible to say if any one heard him or called again.

After an hour or more he found himself on the first ridge, where for a
few yards the ground is level before it rises again.  Here he called
again, once or twice.  Once there came, as he thought, a faint distant
whistle, but by no manner of calling could he get it to come again.  He
started off in the direction from which it seemed to come, calling all
the way, but never a voice came out of the darkness.  For a couple of
hours he doggedly haunted the place, loth to leave it while a chance
remained.  Then he gave it up, and started once more up the steep slope.
He looked at his watch by the light of a match.  It was eleven o'clock.
He shuddered, but not with the cold, and went on.

Something--who could say what?--told him that fee must go higher yet.
Once last year, in company with Wisdom, he had been as far as the upper
bog, and had wanted to go to the top.  But Wisdom had dissuaded him.
Now, even in the darkness the ground seemed familiar, and he tramped on
up the swampy steep till presently he found himself near the sound of
rushing water at the foot of the great ravine.

The stream had grown so strong since the afternoon that to shout against
it was more hopeless than ever.  Yet Rollitt shouted.  Had a voice
replied, he felt sure he could have heard it.  But none did.

Up the steep ravine he went, finding the going easier than through the
spongy swamps below.  About half-way up, just where the juniors ten
hours ago had decided to turn back, as he looked up, he saw what seemed
like clear sky through a frame in the mist.  Was it clearing after all?
Yes.  The higher he got the more the mist broke up into fleeting clouds,
which swept aside every few moments and let in a dim glimmer of
moonlight on the scene.

At the top of the ravine he shouted again; but all was still.  Even the
wind was dying down, and the rain fell with a deadened sob at his feet.
Three o'clock!  Wisdom had told him, the day they had been up there,
that the top was only three-quarters of an hour beyond where he stood.
Something still cried "Excelsior" within him, and without halting longer
than to satisfy himself by another shout, he started on.

How he achieved that tremendous climb he could never say.  The clouds
had rolled off, and the moonlight lit up the rocks almost like day.
Never once did he pull up or flag in his ascent.  He even ceased to
shout.

Presently there loomed before him, gleaming in the moonlight, the cairn.
For the first time in its annals, a Fellsgarth boy had got to the top
of Hawk's Pike.

But, so far from elation at the glory of the achievement, Rollitt
uttered a groan of dismay when he looked round and found no one there
after all.  That he would find Fisher minor there he had never doubted;
and now--all this had been time lost.

Without waiting to heed the glorious moonlight prospect over lake and
hill, he turned almost savagely, and scrambled down the crags.  It was
perilous work--more perilous than the scramble up.  But Rollitt did not
think of danger, and therefore perhaps did not meet it.  In half an hour
he was down on the bog--and in an hour after, just as a faint break in
the east gave warning that the night was gone, he stood bruised and
panting at the foot of the gorge on the second ridge.

He was too dispirited to shout now.  It had not been given to him after
all to rescue his friend.  He would have done better if he had never--

There was a big boulder just ahead, poised almost miraculously on its
edge, on the sloping hill-side.  It looked as if a moderate blast of
wind would send it headlong to the bottom.  But it had stood there for
centuries, a shelter for sheep in winter from the snow and hail.

What made Rollitt bound now in the direction of this rock, like a man
shot?  Surely not to admire a natural curiosity, or to seek shelter
under its wing.

No.  He had found that his quest after all had not been in vain.  There,
curled up under the overhanging rock, lying one almost across the other
for warmth, with cheek touching cheek, and Ashby's coat covering both,
were Fisher minor and his chum--not dead, but sleeping soundly!



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

CORDER STRIKES A BLOW FOR LIBERTY.

The absence of the juniors had excited no curiosity in either house till
evening.  It was a holiday, and though the rule was that even on a
holiday no boy should go "out of touch," as it was called, that is,
beyond a certain radius, without permission, it was not always enforced.
The Modern seniors had every reason to guess the object of this
prolonged absence.  They had promised many things to the juniors when
they caught them.  It was not surprising, while things were as warm as
they were, that the young rebels should give Fellsgarth a wide berth.

As to the Classic juniors, no one was surprised at anything they did, in
reason.

But when "call-over" came and all nine names were returned absent (in
addition to that of Rollitt and a few other habitual vagrants), fellows
began to ask where they were.

"Has any one seen Wally?" asked Yorke, who had just had the unusual
experience of making his own tea and cooking his own eggs.

"He's probably fooling about somewhere out of bounds with my fag," said
Ranger.  "He'll have to catch it, Fisher, though he is your brother."

"Let him have it," said Fisher.  "I'd do the same to your young brother
if I had the chance.  But to change the subject, I've something to tell
you fellows that's rather awkward.  That money hasn't turned up yet."

"That is awkward," said Yorke.  "I wish I could help you out with it,
but I'm cleaned out."

"Oh, that's not it.  Of course I'm responsible, and must get the
governor to make it good.  Dear old governor, he'll do it, but he'll
pull a precious long face, and go round the house lowering the gas and
telling every one he must economise, with two such expensive sons as me
and my minor at school.  It's not that, though.  Dangle came over this
morning, and wanted to know what we were going to do about the accounts,
now we've dissolved the clubs; and somehow or other he's heard of the
deficiency, and wants to know all about it."

"I hope you told him," said Yorke.  "Of course I did; but he told me a
lot more than I could tell him.  He thinks he knows what's become of
it."

And Fisher proceeded to narrate Dangle's suspicions against Rollitt.

The captain's face grew very long as the story went on.  Then he said--

"I hope to goodness there's nothing in it.  Is it a fact about Widow
Wisdom's boat?"

"Yes; my young brother was with Rollitt that day, and told me about it
as a secret.  But as it's out now, there's no good keeping it."

"Dangle has a spite against Rollitt.  If any one else had told you this,
there might have been something in it."

"And if it had been any one but Rollitt bought the boat, it would have
been nothing.  But he's so frightfully poor.  He'd no time to write
home, even if he could have got money from there, and there was no one
here he could borrow of.  Why, he must have gone off very first thing in
the morning and bought the boat."

"And are you quite certain you had all the money collected by that
Saturday?" asked Yorke.

"Yes; and what's more, I'm almost certain I counted it and made it come
right.  That's the last time it has come right."

The captain drummed his fingers on the table and looked very miserable.

"I wish, Fisher," said he, "I hadn't advised you to take that
treasurership.  If we could only be quite sure there wasn't some mistake
in the accounts, it would be different.  It would be a frightful thing
to suspect Rollitt unless it was absolutely certain."

"You're welcome to round on me," said Fisher, looking quite as miserable
as his chief.  "I was a fool to take your advice.  I'd much sooner make
the money up myself, and not say a word about it to any one."

"You can't do that now.  You maybe sure Dangle won't let it drop."

"What shall you do?" asked Ranger.

"What would _you_ do?" said Yorke, testily.  "Isn't it bad enough to be
in a fix like this without being asked hopeless questions?  I'm sorry,
old man, I've lost my temper; and as it's not come back I vote we say no
more on the subject at present."

The evening wore on, and still the truants did not return.  At ten
o'clock Yorke reported their absence to Mr Wakefield, and Mr Wakefield
reported it to the head-master.  A similar report reached him from the
matron of Mr Forders house with regard to the missing ones there; and
presently, further report was made that Rollitt was not in the school.

No one could give any account of their probable whereabouts.  Rollitt
had been seen going out with a rod early in the day, but no one had seen
any of the juniors since last night, when they had prematurely gone to
bed in their own dormitory.  A consultation was held, in which all sorts
of conjectures were put forward, the most plausible of which was that
the juniors had organised an expedition to Seastrand, a fashionable
watering-place an hour distant on the railway, which both Wally and
Lickford had separately been heard to express a desire to visit.  It
seemed probable that they had lost the last train back, and would
literally "not come home till morning."

In which case warm things were promised to be ready for my gentlemen.

As to Rollitt, his vagaries were consistent with any explanation.  He
may have gone to Penchurch in mistake for Fellsgarth, and curled himself
up in the church porch, mistaking it for his bed.

In any case the general impression was that nothing could be done till
morning, and that the juniors at least were making themselves pretty
comfortable, wherever they might be.

Still, Fisher major felt a vague uneasiness.  Had he been quite sure his
brother was in the capable company of his fellow-fags, he would have
been comparatively comfortable.  But the possibility of the feckless
youngster wandering about benighted somewhere on his own account added a
new weight to the burden which already lay on the spirit of the luckless
treasurer of the School clubs.

"I've a good mind to turn out and look for my minor," said he to Denton.

"What could you do?  He's all right.  You couldn't do anything in the
dark, and on a night like this.  I'm game to turn out any hour you like
in the morning, if he's not come by then.  I bet you the four young
scamps will all stroll in for call-over, and wonder whatever the fuss
was about."

There was nothing to be done, and Fisher lay awake all night, listening
to every sound, and reproaching himself over and over again (as one will
do when everything goes wrong) that he had made such a mess of
everything this term.

About daybreak there came a ring at the school-bell, and half the school
jumped to its feet.  Fisher was down on the Green among the first, in
slippers and ulster.

Five shivering youngsters were standing inside the gate, with dripping
garments and chattering teeth and white faces--D'Arcy, Lickford,
Ramshaw, Cottle, and Cash--but no Fisher minor.

"Where's my minor?" asked the senior.

"What! hasn't he turned up?" said D'Arcy.  "Haven't Wally and Percy and
Ashby turned up?  We got lost on Hawk's Pike.  I'm awfully hungry, I
say."

"No one's turned up.  Do you mean to say he's out on the hill a night
like this?"

"He was behind--he and Ashby.  He was a lame duck, you know.  The others
were in front."

"Were they together?"

"Who?  Young Fisher minor and Ashby?  I don't think so."

"Ashby yelled to see if we knew where he was, and must have gone to look
for him.  We made sure they'd be back long ago, didn't we, you chaps?"

Here the doctor and several of the prefects came on the scene.  The
truants were ordered to the hot bath and bed at once, and a council was
held as to what should be done.  Fisher major did not wait to take part
in it.  He rushed to his room, flung on his clothes and boots, and
started off, accompanied by Denton, at full speed, in the direction of
the mountain.

Neither spoke a word.  As they passed Widow Wisdom's, Denton darted in.

"Have your fire alight and some food ready.  Some of our youngsters have
been all night on the mountain.  We're going to look for them."

Half-way to the lake, they were pulled up by a shout from across the
stream.  It was Percy Wheatfield, dead beat, sitting on a log, as white
and miserable as a ghost.

"I say, have you chaps seen Wally?" he called.

"No; we're off to look.  Some of them have turned up.  Can you get as
far as Widow Wisdom's?  There's a roaring fire and some grub waiting
there.  We'll see after Wally."

Percy staggered to his feet.  He had been wandering, he could not say
where, all night.  The very mention of the words "fire" and "food"
revived him.

"Get up to school as soon as you can and get to bed.  You can't be any
use looking for the rest.  There's plenty of us to do that.  Good-bye."

It was half-past seven when they reached the lake and turned up the
mountain path.  The mist had vanished, and the late autumn sun was
shining brightly on the hill-side.  The distant barking of a dog above
apprised them that some one was abroad already, and the hopes of the
searchers rose within them as they struck up the steep slope.

Half-way up they stood and shouted; but no reply came except the far-
away barking of the shepherd's dogs.  "We shall be able to see a good
way all round when we get on to the ridge," said Denton.

Almost as he spoke, a shout close by startled them.  Looking up they
perceived emerging from behind some boulders a little procession.

Fisher major's blood ran cold as he saw it.  For at the head stalked a
stalwart guide, who carried in his arms one small boy, while in the rear
followed a form which they recognised as Rollitt's carrying on his back
another.  Between the two tramped a third junior, hanging on to the arm
of another guide.

What terrified Fisher major more than anything was to see that the head
of the boy on Rollitt's back had fallen helplessly forward on the
shoulder of his porter.

With a groan the elder brother bounded to the spot.  The history of
years flashed through his mind as he did so.  He saw the people at home
and heard their voices.  He seemed to be in the nursery, hectoring it,
as big brothers will, among the little ones, amongst whom was a little
boy with curly hair and a shrill piping voice.  He called to mind the
first-night of this term, and the vision of his young brother breaking
down with his new-boy troubles next morning.  All this and more fleeted
through his mind as he bounded to where Rollitt stood.

"Hush!" said the latter, almost gruffly.  "Asleep."

So he was.  It had scarcely roused him when Rollitt had picked him up
two hours ago from his roost under the rocking-stone.  And having once
been perched on his preserver's back his head fell forward again, and
there it had lain ever since.  How Rollitt had carried him so far,
resting only now and then, and that in a way not to disturb his burden,
only those who knew the huge strength of the Fellsgarth giant could
understand.

"Hullo," said Wally, greeting the new-comers in a limp, sleepy way,
"have you seen my young brother Percy?  He was--"

"Yes--Percy's all right; so are all the rest."

"I'm all right," sang out Ashby from the front.  "This chap wanted to
carry me, so I let him."

"Jolly glad you were to get the lift," said Wally.  "You new kids
oughtn't to have come.  Twenty-four hours on the hills is nothing when
you get used to--"

Here Wally (who had had twenty-six hours) suddenly collapsed and tumbled
over from sheer fatigue on the grass.

Fisher and Denton made a chair of their hands for him, and so the
procession went on.

A cart was in waiting at the foot of the slope, filled with warm wraps
and other restoratives, and in less than two hours the whole party was
safe inside the walls of Fellsgarth.

Hot baths, blankets, food, and a little physic, succeeded in a very few
days in restoring the invalided truants to their sorrowing class-mates.
Fisher minor was the only member of the party about whom any serious
uneasiness existed, and he, thanks to a wiry constitution and a rooted
dislike to do what nobody else did, got off with a bad cold, which
detained him in his house for a fortnight.

Rollitt, as might have been expected, vanished to his own quarters as
soon as he had deposited his precious burden into Mr Wakefield's
charge.  No one heard of his having been to the top.  To Fisher's thanks
he returned a grumpy "Not at all."  And the curious inquiries of others
he met by shutting his door and saying "Get out" to any one who entered.

As might be expected also, the Modern seniors were baulked, after all,
of their promised vengeance on the rebels.  On the contrary, while the
fags were making merry on chicken and toasting their toes at the roaring
fire in the sanatorium, Clapperton, Brinkman, and Dangle were hauled up
into the presence of the head-master, and there seriously reprimanded
for the damage done to one of the doors in Mr Forder's house, and
cautioned not to let such a breach of discipline happen again, under a
pain of severer penalties.

"If you are unable to keep order in your own house," said the doctor
cuttingly, "your duty is to report the matter to me, and I will deal
with it.  Remember that another time."

This incident did not tend to smooth the ruffled plumes of the
discomfited heroes.

Still less did another little rebuff, which happened a few days later.

Corder had taken advantage of the general excitement attending the
escapade of the juniors to return to his own quarters and attempt once
more to resume the privileges of ordinary civilised life.  He only
partially succeeded.  Two or three boys, among whom was Fullerton, who
were getting sick of the present state of affairs and longing for
football once more, had begun seriously to doubt what advantage was
coming to themselves or any one else by the strike.  Among these Corder
found a temporary shelter.  But the authority of the seniors still
controlled the general public opinion of the house, and the life of the
boycotted boy was still only half tolerable.

At the first attempt at violence, however, Corder walked across to his
Classic allies, and took up his quarters in their study, where he
remained all day.

At bedtime he declined to return to his own house; particularly when a
summons to that effect was sent across by Clapperton, who by this time
had a very good idea of the rebel's whereabouts.

"I'm not going over," said Corder.

"But you can't stay here all night," said Denton.

"What shall you do--turn me out?" asked the fugitive.

"No.  But you'd better go, and if you don't like the look of things out
there, you'd better speak to Forder."

"No.  I'd sooner stop," said Corder, doggedly.  "I'm sorry to put you
fellows about after your being so kind, but I'm not going over there."

Yorke was consulted, and took upon himself the responsibility of
detaining the refugee for the night.

"All right, thanks," said Corder, and turned in.

Next morning word came from Mr Forder requiring that the truant should
answer for his absence.

Corder obeyed, with some misgivings, and explained briefly that he had
been bullied and did not want to stand it.

Mr Forder, who had a peculiar faculty for saddling the wrong horse, was
not satisfied with this explanation, and chose to suspect some other.
Corder had never been a satisfactory boy.  He had probably been making
himself objectionable, and had been glad of an excuse to break rules.
The master did not demand particulars.  He gave the culprit an
imposition, and ordered him to obey the rules of his house; and another
time, if he had any grievance, to come with it to him instead of taking
the law into his own hands.

Whereupon Corder departed in high dudgeon.

It was no use holding out now.  He had better give in, and own himself
beaten.  It would be so much easier than resisting any longer.

For an hour of two he was permitted to go in and out unmolested.  But
after morning school, he was going out to solace himself with some
solitary kicks at the football, when just on the steps of the house
Brinkman pounced upon him.

"I've got you now, have I, you cad?" said he.  "You just come back with
me."

"I won't.  Let go!" cried Corder, in a temporary panic, wriggling
himself away and escaping a few yards.

Brinkman, however, was quickly after him, determined this time to hold
him fast.  Corder, though a senior, was a small boy, and had never
before thought of pitting, himself against the Modern bully.

But once already this term he had come suddenly to realise that he could
do better than he gave himself credit for.  And now that matters seemed
desperate, when there was no escape, and his fate stared him in the
face, it occurred to Corder he would show fight.

He had right on his side.  He had done no harm to Brinkman or anybody
else.  Why shouldn't he let out, and stand up for himself?

So, to Brinkman's utter amazement, he was met by a blow and a defiant
challenge to "come on."

What Brinkman might have done is doubtful, but at that moment Yorke and
Ranger strolled by.

"Hullo!  What's this?  A fight?" said the captain.

"Rather," said Corder, now thoroughly strung up to the point.  "I say,
Yorke, will you stop and see fair play?"

The captain hesitated a moment.  Any other fight he would have felt it
his duty to stop.  This fight seemed to be an exception.  It would
probably do more good than harm.

"Yes, if you like," said he.

"I'm not going to fight a little beggar like that," said Brinkman.

"Yes, you are," said Ranger, "and I'll see fair play for you."

"I promise you I'll make it so hot for him that he'll be sorry for it."

"I don't care," said Corder.  "If you don't fight you're a coward.
There!"

At this point Dangle came out.

"Here, your man wants a second," said Ranger; "you'll suit him better
than I."

The usual crowd collected, minus the junior faction, who complained
bitterly for a year after that they had been deliberately done out of
being present by the malice of the principals.  One result of their
absence was that the proceedings were comparatively quiet.  Every one
present knew what the quarrel was, and not a few, for their own sakes,
hoped Corder would make a good fight of it.

Dangle sneered at the whole thing, and counselled his man audibly not to
be too hard on the little fool.

His advice was not wanted.  Corder, for a fellow of his make and
inexperience, exhibited good form, and persistently walked his man round
the ring, dodging his blows and getting in a knock for himself every now
and then.  Brinkman soon dropped the disdainful style in which he
commenced proceedings, and became proportionately wild and unsteady.

"Now's your chance, young 'un; he's lost his temper," whispered the
captain.

Whereupon Corder, hardly knowing how he managed it, danced his man once
more round and round, till he was out of breath, and then slipped in
with a right, left--left, right, which, though they made up hardly one
good blow among them, were so well planted, and followed one another so
rapidly, that Brinkman lost his balance under them, and fell sprawling
on the ground.

At the same moment Mr Stratton came up, and the crowd dispersed as if
by magic.

"What is this?" said the master, appealing to the captain.

"A fight, sir," said Yorke.  "A necessary one."

"Between Corder and Brinkman?  Come and tell me about it, Yorke."

So while Corder, amid the jubilations of his supporters, who had grown
twenty-fold since the beginning of the fight, was being escorted to his
quarters, and Brinkman, crestfallen and bewildered, was being left by
his disgusted backers to help himself, Yorke strolled on with Mr
Stratton, and gave him, as well as he could, an account of the
circumstances which for weeks had been leading up to this climax.

"I think it was as well to allow it," said the master, "but there must
be no more of it.  You have a hard task before you to pull things
together, Yorke, but it will be work well done."

"Was it the right thing to dissolve the clubs, sir?" asked Yorke.

"At the time, yes.  But watch your chance of reviving them.  You must
have some common interest on foot, to bring the two sides together."

The captain walked back to his house in a brown study.  He had half
hoped Mr Stratton might offer to interpose and restore the harmony of
the School.  But no, the master had left it to the captain, and Yorke's
courage rose within him.  God helping him, he would pull Fellsgarth
together before he left.

On the Green he met Fullerton.  It was long since the Modern and Classic
seniors had nodded as they passed, but in the curious perversity of
things both did so now.

"There's been a fight, I hear?" said Fullerton.

"Yes.  Brinkman and Corder.  Corder had the best of it."

"I'm jolly glad.  Corder's got more pluck than you'd give him credit
for."

"Yes; he's had a rough time of it in your house."

"So he has, poor beggar.  It's rather humiliating to wait till he has
licked his man before one takes his side; but upon my word, I'm as sick
of it all as he is."

"It is rather rough on fellows who aren't allowed to do what they've a
right to do," said Yorke.  "I say, have you anything special on after
afternoon school?"

"No, why?"

"Only that I wish you'd come and have tea with me."

Fullerton laughed.

"Bribery and corruption?" said he.  "Anyhow, I'll come."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

"FAMA VOLAT."

The Modern seniors had certainly experienced a run of bad luck since the
inauguration of the strike, which was to have brought their rivals down
on their knees and secured for the Modern side a supremacy in
Fellsgarth.

The second Rendlesham match, the defection of Corder, the mutiny of the
juniors, the disbanding of the clubs, the row with the head-master, and
finally, the defeat of Brinkman by his own victim, might be held to be
enough to chasten their spirits, and induce them to ask themselves
whether the game was worth the candle.

But, such is the infatuation of wrong-headedness, they still breathed
vengeance on some one; and this time their victim was to be Rollitt.

The grudge against him had been steadily accumulating during the term.
His outrage on the gentle Dangle was yet to be atoned for.  His crime of
playing in the fifteen was yet unappeased.  His contempt of the whole
crew of his enemies was not to be pardoned.  Even his rescue of the lost
juniors told against him, for it had helped to turn the public feeling
of the School in favour of those recalcitrant young rebels.  So far
there had been no getting at him.  He would not quarrel.  He would not
even recognise the existence of any one he did not care for.

But now a chance had come.  The more they discussed it, the more morally
certain was it that he was answerable for the disappearance of the money
from the Club funds.  The very reluctance of his own house to take
action in the matter showed that they at least appreciated the gravity
of the suspicion.

It was a trump card for the Moderns.  By pushing it now, they would be
doing a service to the School.  They would pose as the champions of
honesty.  They would be mortifying the Classics, even while they
pretended to assist them; and, above all, they would wipe out scores
with Rollitt himself, in a way he could not well disregard.

Clapperton and Dangle were not superlatively clever boys; but, whether
by chance or design, they certainly hit upon an admirable method for
bringing the matter to a crisis.

Dangle took upon himself to confide his suspicions, as a dead and
terrible secret, to Wilcox, a middle-boy of Forder's house, and
notorious as the most prolific gossip in Fellsgarth; who, moreover, was
known to have several talking acquaintances in the other houses.

Wilcox received Dangle's communication with astonishment and--oh, of
course, he wouldn't breathe a word of it to any one, not for the world;
it was a bad business, but it was Fisher major's business to see it put
right, and so on.

That night as Wilcox and his friend Underwood were retiring to rest, the
former confided to the latter, under the deadliest pledge of secrecy,
that there was a scandal going on about the School accounts.  He
mightn't say more except that the fellow suspected was one of the last
he himself should have dreamt of, although others might be less
surprised.

That was not all.  Next morning he sat next to Calder, a Classic boy, in
Hall, and asked him if he could keep a secret.  Oh yes, Calder could
keep any amount of secrets.  Then Wilcox told him the same story that he
had confided to Underwood, only adding that the amount in question was
said to be several pounds.

Calder hazarded the names of several boys; but Wilcox shrugged his
shoulders at them all.

"You'd better not ask me," he said; "it will only get out and make
trouble."

"Oh! but I promise I wouldn't tell a soul," said Calder.

"I can't tell you, though.  But I'll tell you this.  You'd never guess
the fellow had had as much in his pocket all his life."

"What--do you mean Rollitt?"

"I can't tell you, I say.  I'm not at liberty to mention names."

The rumour thus admirably started went on merrily.

Before nightfall it was known in half a dozen Modern studies that the
Club funds had been robbed of £10 or £12 by a Classic boy, and that he
was being shielded by his own seniors.  On the Classic side four or five
fellows whispered to one another that Rollitt had been caught in the act
of stealing money out of Fisher major's rooms a day or two ago.

Presently, one enterprising gossip sent the story of Widow Wisdom's boat
rolling in and out with the rumour of the stolen money.  Encouraged by
that, some one else hinted that there had been deficiencies last term as
well as this; and in and out with the new story was started the report
that last term Rollitt had set up with a fishing-tackle and book of
flies worth ever so much.

A couple of days later the number of boys in the secret had multiplied
fast, and Rollitt, as he walked across the Green to Hall or class, was
watched and pointed out mysteriously by a score or more of curious boys.

Of course the story grew to all sorts of curious shapes.  Percy (who was
the first of the invalided juniors to appear in his usual haunts) had it
from Rix, who had had it from Banks, who had had it from Underwood, who
had had it from Wilcox, who had had it from Dangle, who had been present
on the occasion, that Rollitt had met the head-master in a lane near
Widow Wisdom's, and holding a pistol at his head had made him turn out
all his pockets, and relieved him of fifty pounds.

Percy said he didn't believe it.

Whereupon Rix reduced the amount to thirty pounds.

Percy still could not accept the story.

Whereat Rix, anxious to meet his friend as far as possible, substituted
a walking-stick for the pistol.

Still Percy's gullet could not swallow even what was left.

Whereupon Rix suggested that it was open to doubt whether it was the
doctor who was robbed or Fisher major.  It _might_ have been the latter.

Still Percy looked sceptical.

Which called forth an explanation that Rix did not mean to say that
Dangle actually witnessed the occurrence; but that he knew it for a fact
all the same.

Percy shook his head still.

And Rix, feeling much injured, laid the scene of the outrage in Fisher's
study, and conceded that the money might belong to the clubs, and might
be only five pounds.

Percy had the temerity once more to express doubt.  Whereupon Rix flatly
declined to come down another penny in the amount, or alter his story
one iota, with one possible exception; that the money may have been
taken when Fisher major was not in his room.

Percy considered the anecdote had been boiled down sufficiently for
human consumption, and grieved Rix prodigiously by saying that he knew
all about it weeks ago, and what did he mean by coming and telling him
his wretched second-hand stories?

However, whatever variations the rumour underwent as it passed from hand
to hand, it managed to retain its three most salient points all
through--namely, that Fisher major had been robbed; that the money taken
belonged to the club; and that the suspected thief was Rollitt.

For a week or two Rollitt remained profoundly ignorant of the charges
against him.  His unapproachable attitude was the despair both of friend
and enemy.  Yorke, who would have given anything to let him have an
opportunity of denying or explaining the charge, was at his wits' end
how to get at him.  Dangle, on the contrary, who was chiefly interested
in the penalties in store for the thief, was equally at a loss how to
bring him to bay.

He would see no one.  He shut himself in his study and fastened the
door.  In class and Hall he was practically deaf and dumb; and in his
solitary walks by the river it was as much as any one's comfort for the
whole term was worth to accost him.

By one of those strange coincidences which often bring the most unlikely
persons into sympathy, Yorke and Dangle each decided to write what they
hesitated to say.

Yorke had endless difficulty over his letter.  He could not bring
himself to believe Rollitt a thief, yet he could not deny that
suspicions existed.  Still less could he evade his duty as captain to
see things right.  The latter duty he might have put off on Mr
Wakefield or the doctor.  But the mere reporting to them of the
circumstances would fix the suspicions on Rollitt more pointedly than
they were already, and certainly more pointedly than Yorke wished them
to be.

"Dear Rollitt," he wrote, "I hope you will not resent my writing to tell
you of a rumour which is afloat very injurious to you, and one which I
feel quite sure you can dispose of at once.  I would not write about it,
only I am very anxious for the sake of everybody you should deny it, and
so shut up others who would be glad enough if it were true.  A sum of
money, about £4 10 shillings, belonging to the Club funds has been lost
from Fisher major's room.  The rumour is that you have taken it, and
those who accuse you make much of the coincidence that about the time
when the money was said to be lost, you spent a similar sum in the
purchase of a new boat for Widow Wisdom.  If I didn't feel quite sure
you would be able to deny the charge and explain anything about it that
seems suspicious, I should not have cared to write this.

"Yours truly,--

"C.  Yorke."

Dangle's letter was less ingenuous.

"The secretary of the Fellsgarth clubs has been requested to ask Rollitt
the following questions in reference to a sum of about £4 10 shillings
missing from the funds in the treasurer's hands.

"1.  Is it true that Rollitt was seen at the door of Fisher major's room
on Saturday afternoon, September 21, at a time when everybody else was
absent from the house?

"2.  Is it true that immediately afterwards Rollitt paid five pounds for
a new boat for Widow Wisdom?

"3.  Where did that money come from?

"4.  Does Rollitt know that he is suspected by every boy in Fellsgarth
of having stolen it; and that now that the clubs are dissolved the
treasurer will be called upon to refund the money?

"5.  What is Rollitt going to do?  Does he deny it?  If not, will he
take the consequences?

"Signed for the Club Committee,--

"T.  Dangle, Sec."

Fisher minor, the only boy to whom a missive to the School hermit might
safely be entrusted, was on his way to Rollitt's study with the
captain's note in his hand, when he was met on the stairs by Cash.

"What cheer, kid?" said the latter.  "Where are you off to?"

"Taking a letter to Rollitt," said Fisher minor.

"That's just what I am, from Dangle.  I say, you may as well give him
the two.  No answer.  Ta-ta."  And he thrust his missive into Fisher's
hands.

It was just as easy to hand Rollitt two letters as one.  So Fisher
proceeded on his errand.

Rollitt was writing a letter, which he hurriedly put aside when the
messenger entered.

"Get out!" he said, looking up.  But when he saw who the intruder was
his tone relaxed a little.

"Fisher minor?  Better?"

"Yes, thanks.  I had a cold, but that was all.  I say, Rollitt, you were
an awful brick helping us down that night."

"Nonsense!" said Rollitt, pulling out his paper and going on writing.

"Here are two letters for you," said the boy.

Rollitt motioned him gruffly to lay them down on the table and depart--
which he did gladly.

Rollitt went on writing.  It may be no breach of confidence if we allow
the reader to glance over his shoulder.

"Dear Mother,--You ask me if I am happy, and how I like school.  I am
not happy, and I hate Fellsgarth.  Nobody cares about me.  It's no use
my trying to be what I am not.  I am not a gentleman, and I hope I never
shall be, if the fellows here are specimens.  Just because I'm poor they
have nothing to do with me.  I don't complain of that.  I prefer it.
I'd much sooner be working for my living like father than wasting my
time at a place like this.  If those ladies would give the money they
spend on keeping me here to you and father it would do much more good.
There is only one boy I care about here, and he is a little fellow who
was kind to me of his own accord, and doesn't fight shy of me because
I've no money and live on charity.  I would ever so much rather come and
live at home at the end of this term.  It would be even worse at Oxford
than it is here; and the ladies, if they want to be kind, will let me
leave.  I know you and father want me to become a grand gentleman.  I
would a hundred times rather be what I really am, and live at home with
you.

"Your loving son,--

"Alfred."

This dismal letter concluded, the writer produced his books and began
work, heedless of the two letters on his table, which lay all day where
Fisher minor had deposited them.

He went in and out to class, and those who watched him saw no signs of
trouble in his demeanour.  In the afternoon he stole up to the river
with his rod; and any one who had seen him land his three-pounder, and
leave it, as he left all his fish, at Widow Wisdom's cottage, would have
been puzzled by his indifferent air.

That evening, as he was about to go to bed, he discovered the letters.

Dangle's letter, which he opened first, he scarcely seemed to heed.  The
sight of the name at foot was sufficient.  He crumpled it up and tossed
it in the corner.

But Yorke's aroused him.  He read it through once or twice, and his face
grew grim as he did so.  Presently he went to the corner and picked up
Dangle's letter and once more read it.  Then he crumpled up both
together, and instead of going to bed sat in his chair and looked at the
wall straight in front of him.

The next day those who watched him saw him go into school and out as
usual, except that he seemed less listless and more observant.  He
glanced aside now and then at the groups of boys who stood and looked
after him, and his face had a cloud on it which was almost thunderous.

"Did you give my letter to Rollitt?" said Yorke to Fisher minor.

"Yes, yesterday; and one from Dangle too," said the junior.

"Dangle!" said the captain to himself; "he'll think we are in collusion.
Why ever didn't I leave it alone?"

He felt thus still more when later on in the day Dangle came over.

"I hear you have written to Rollitt for an explanation.  It was about
time.  What does he reply?"

Yorke's back went up at the dictatorial tone of the inquiry.

"If there is anything to tell you, you will hear," said he.

"That means he hasn't replied, I suppose.  I have taken care that he
shall reply.  I have told Forder all about it."

"You've told Forder?  You cad!" exclaimed Yorke, in a tone which made
Dangle thankful he was near the door.

"Yes," snarled he.  "It may be your interest to shield a thief, but it's
not in the interest of Fellsgarth.  You won't take the matter up; Forder
will.  I've told him you know about it, and will give him all the
particulars.  Hope you'll enjoy it."

And he disappeared, only just in time for his own comfort.

Yorke's rage was unbounded.  Of all the masters, Mr Forder was the one
he would least have chosen to take up an affair of this kind.  He was
harsh, unsympathetic, hasty.  And of all persons to prime the master in
the circumstances of the case, Dangle was the least to be trusted.

His temptation was to go at once to Rollitt, and force the matter to a
conclusion before Mr Forder had time to interfere.  Things were going
from bad to worse.  Would they never come right again?

Next morning, before he could decide what to do, a message came from Mr
Forder, requesting him and his fellow-prefects to come across to the
master's room.

In no amiable frame of mind they obeyed.  As they expected, Clapperton,
Brinkman, Dangle, and Fullerton were also present.

"This is a most serious case," said Mr Forder.  "Yorke, I understand
you know more about it than any one.  Will you kindly say all you know?"

"I know nothing," said the captain, "except that I believe the story is
groundless."

"That is unsatisfactory.  In a matter like this, there must be nothing
like sheltering the wrong-doer."

"It's because we were afraid of that, sir," said Clapperton, "that we
thought it right to tell you about it."

"Of course.  Fisher major, perhaps you will tell us about the missing
money."

Fisher major briefly related his loss and the efforts he had made to
discover it.

"And what are your grounds for suspecting Rollitt?"

"I don't suspect him, sir; or rather I should not if it were not for
what Dangle has said about him."

Thereupon Dangle was called upon to repeat his accusation.

"It seems to me," said the master, "we require two important witnesses
to make the case clear.  I believe Mrs Wisdom is in the house at
present.  Will you inquire, Fullerton, and if so, tell her to come here?
And will you, Fisher major, fetch your brother?"

After a painful delay, in which the rival seniors sat glaring at one
another, and the master made notes of the evidence so far, the two
witnesses were forthcoming.

Widow Wisdom had nothing to say except in praise of Master Rollitt, and
was glad enough in support of it to relate the incident of the boat, and
even produce the receipt, which she carried about like a talisman in her
pocket.  She had no idea that her glowing testimony was to be used
against her favourite, or she would have bitten off her tongue sooner
than give it:

As for Fisher minor, confused and abashed in the presence of so many
seniors, he blundered out his story of the eventful half-holiday,
looking in vain towards his brother to ascertain if he was doing well or
ill.  He blabbed all he knew about Rollitt; the condition of his study,
the nature of his solitary walks, the poverty of his possessions--
everything that could possibly confirm the suspicions against him; and
forgot to mention anything which might in the least avail on the other
side.

At the close of the court-martial Mr Forder summed up.

"I am afraid it is a very clear case," said he.  "It is very painful to
think that a Fellsgarth boy should come to such a pass.  The matter must
be reported to the head-master.  But before doing so it would be fair to
see Rollitt, and hear what he has to say.  We have no right to condemn
any one unheard.  If he is innocent, it will be easy for him to prove
it.  Fisher major, will you tell him to come?"

Fisher major reluctantly obeyed.  It was nearly half an hour before he
returned, and then he came alone.

"I cannot find Rollitt, sir.  He is not in the house.  He was absent
from morning call-over.  And the house-keeper says he was not in his
room this morning, and that his bed was not slept in last night."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

BOLTED!

However slowly the rumour of Rollitt's dishonesty had spread through the
School, the news of his disappearance spread like wildfire.

Mr Forder's desire to keep the matter from being talked about was
eminently futile, for Wally and Percy Wheatfield both knew all about it
five minutes after Fisher major had discovered the absence of the
"suspect."

By everybody except a very few infatuated persons, such as Yorke and
Fisher minor, Rollitt's flight was taken as conclusive evidence of his
guilt.

"If he hadn't done it, why shouldn't he stay and face it?" asked
Clapperton.

"The wonder to me is," sneered Dangle, "that he brazened it out as long
as he did."

"Suppose you were in his shoes," said Yorke, "suspected by every one,
with the evidence black against you, and Dangle in charge of the
prosecution, how would you like it?"

"If I'm in charge of the prosecution," said Dangle, colouring up, "it's
because _you_, whose duty it was to see the matter put right, were doing
all you could to shield the scoundrel."

"I did nothing because I didn't believe him guilty, and I don't yet,"
said the captain hotly; "and if you call him scoundrel again in my
hearing, I'll knock you down."

"Keep your temper," said Dangle, glad, all the same, that there were one
or two fellows between him and the captain.  "_You_ may not care about
the credit of Fellsgarth.  We do."

"You!" retorted Yorke, with such withering contempt that Dangle half
wished he had left the matter alone.

"The thing is," said Ranger, "what is to be done!"

"Nothing," said Yorke.  "Forder has gone to tell the doctor all about
it.  They'll take it into their own hands to hunt him down--perhaps with
Dangle's assistance.  All we've got to do is--"

Here Fullerton interrupted--

"--is to say all the evil we can about a fellow who is down and can't
defend himself."

"What's the matter with Fullerton?" said Clapperton, with a sneer;
"surely he's not become one of Rollitt's champions?"

"If it matters specially to you what I think," said Fullerton, "I don't
believe a word of your precious story.  First of all, Fisher major's
such a fool at accounts that it's not at all certain the money is lost;
secondly, Dangle is the accuser; thirdly, Rollitt is the accused;
fourthly, because if a similar charge were made against me, I should
certainly disappear."

"Ha, ha!" snarled Brinkman, "they've got hold of poor Fullerton, have
they?  I wish them joy of him."

"Thanks very much," said Fullerton; "I don't intend to desert the dear
Moderns.  You will have a splendid chance of taking it out of me for
daring to believe somebody innocent that you think guilty.  I shall be
happy to see any three of you, whenever you like, I can hit out as well
as young Corder, so I hope Brinkman won't come.  But Dangle now, or even
Clapperton, I shall be charmed to see.  It's really their duty as
prefects to suppress any one who dares have an opinion of his own.  I
simply long to be suppressed!"

This astounding revolt for the time being diverted attention from the
topic of the hour.  The laughter with which it was greeted by the
Classics present did not tend to add to the comfort of Clapperton,
Brinkman, and Dangle, who very shortly discovered that it was time to go
to their own house.

"Wait for me," said Fullerton; "I'm coming too."

And, to their disgust, the rebel strolled along, with his hands in his
pockets, in their company, whistling pleasantly to himself and
absolutely ignoring their unfriendly attitude.

Meanwhile the question, "Where is Rollitt?" continued to exercise
Fellsgarth, from the head-master down to the junior fag.  Bit by bit all
that could be found out about his movements came to light.  His study
was visited by the masters.  It disclosed the usual state of grime and
confusion.  His fishing-rod and tackle were there.  There had been no
attempt to pack his few belongings, which lay scattered about in dismal
disorder.  The photograph of the pleasant, homely-looking woman on the
mantelpiece, with the inscription below, "Alfred, from Mother," stood in
its usual place.  His Aristophanes lay open in the window-sill at the
place for to-day's lesson.  Everything betokened an abrupt and hasty
departure.

Among the papers on his table was a fragment of some accounts recording
the outlay of little more than a few pence a week since the beginning of
the term.

When inquiry came to be made, it was found that he was last seen after
afternoon class yesterday, when he unexpectedly went to the School shop
and purchased from the attendant there (who had been put in charge of
that establishment during the indisposition of the managing directors)
half a dozen Abernethy biscuits.

The matron at Wakefield's remembered that only a day or two ago a parcel
had arrived for Rollitt--another unusual circumstance--containing a ham.
Of this possession no sign was now to be found in his study.

The inference from all these circumstances of course was, that however
abruptly he had departed, he had not gone home, but somewhere where food
would not be easy to procure in the ordinary way.

Messengers were sent to Penchurch to acquaint the police and inquire at
various places on the way for news of the missing boy.  But no one had
seen him "out of touch" for several days--since his last fishing
expedition.

His home address was of course on the School books, and thither a
telegram was sent.  But as the place was beyond the region of the wire,
no reply came for a day, when in answer to the doctor's inquiry if the
wanderer had returned home, there came an abrupt "No."

Meanwhile the doctor had had another conference with the seniors of both
houses, and inquired with every sign of dissatisfaction into the merits
of the suspicions which were the apparent cause of Rollitt's
disappearance.

To his demand why the matter was not reported to him, Yorke replied that
as far as he and Fisher major were concerned they did not suspect
Rollitt, and therefore had had nothing to report.  The Modern seniors,
on the other hand, put in the plea that they had looked to the Classics
to take the matter up, and when they declined to do so, had reported the
matter to Mr Forder.

Then the doctor went into the particulars of Dangle's feud with the
missing boy, much to the embarrassment of the former.

"He insulted you by turning you out of Mr Wakefield's house, you say.
Why were you there?"

"I went to speak to some juniors."

"About what?"

"Clapperton wanted them--"

"No, I didn't.  You went--" interrupted Clapperton.

"Silence, Clapperton.  What were they wanted for, Dangle?"

"They had cheated at Elections."

"What was your object, then?"

"To punish them."

"Are you not aware that the captain of the School is the only prefect
who is allowed to punish?"

"Yes, sir, but--"

"Well?"

"We were not sure that their own prefects were going to take any notice
of it."

"I caned all four of them for it, and you saw me do it," said Yorke.

"Humph.  And as to Rollitt, how came he to be present?" asked the
doctor.

"He came in."

"What were you doing when he came in?"

"There was a scuffle."

"You were striking those boys?  What did Rollitt do?  Did he strike
you?"

"No, sir."

"What then?"

"He--he," said Dangle, flushing up to be obliged to record the fact in
the presence of the other seniors, "he dragged me across the Green."

"Then you say he attacked you on another occasion on the football
field?"

And Dangle had to stand an uncomfortable cross-examination on this
incident too.

"What had it all got to do with Rollitt?" asked every one of himself.

"I ask you all these questions, Dangle," said the doctor, when he had
brought this chapter of history up to date, "because it seems to me you
are Rollitt's chief accuser in this matter.  I wish I were able to feel
that you were not personally interested in your charges proving to be
true.  That, of course, does not affect the case, as far as Rollitt is
concerned.  The evidence against him is merely conjecture, so far."

"But I met him at Fisher's door that afternoon," said Dangle, determined
to make the most of his strong points.

"Why," said Fisher, "you told me you didn't know which my door was, when
you first spoke about it."

"I found out since, and it was the same door."

"Was he coming out of the room or going in!"

"Coming out."

"You are sure of that?"

"Yes, I remember because the door nearly struck me as he opened it."

"However could it do that!" exclaimed Fisher.  "My door opens inwards!"

Dangle coloured up with confusion and stammered--

"I--I thought it--I suppose I was wrong."

"I think so," said the doctor frigidly.  "Thank you, boys, I needn't
keep you longer at present."

"You idiot!" said Clapperton, as he and the discomfited Dangle walked
back to Forder's.  "You've made a precious mess of it, and made the
whole house ridiculous.  Why couldn't you let it alone?  You've mulled
everything you've put your finger into this term."

"Look here, Clapperton," said Dangle, in a white heat, "I've stood a lot
from you this term--a jolly lot.  I've done your dirty work, and--"

"What do you mean?  What dirty work have I asked you to do?"

"Plenty that you've not had the pluck to do yourself."

"I dare you to repeat it, you liar!"

"You shall do your own in future, I know that."

"Dangle, hold your tongue, you cad!"

"I shall do nothing of the kind, you snob!"

Whereupon ensued the most wonderful spectacle of the half, a fight
between Clapperton and Dangle.  It was nearly dark, and no one was
about, and history does not record how it ended.  But in Hall that night
both appeared with visages suspiciously marred, and it was noted by many
an observant eye that diplomatic relations between the two were
suspended.

But while old friends had thus been falling out on Rollitt's account,
old enemies had on the same grounds been making it up.

The juniors having recovered of their colds, and finding themselves once
more in the full possession of their appetite, their liberty, and their
spirits, celebrated their convalescence by a general _melee_ in Percy's
room, under the specious pretext of a committee meeting of the shop-
directors.  This business function being satisfactorily concluded, they
turned their attention to the condition of things in general.

That Fellsgarth should have got itself into a regular mess during their
enforced retirement caused them no surprise.  What else could any one
expect?

But that any one should dare to suspect and make things hot for a fellow
without consulting _them_, caused them both pain and astonishment.  It
quite slipped their memories that not long since some of them had been
glad enough to listen to disparaging talk about the School hermit.  That
was a detail.  On the whole they had stuck to him, and they meant to
stick to him now!

Many things were in his favour.  He had won a goal for the School.  He
had dispensed with his right to a fag, and had let the juniors of all
grades generally alone.  He was on nodding terms with Fisher minor, one
of their lot.  He had come up Hawk's Pike at much personal inconvenience
to look for them.  And he had been a customer to the extent of six
Abernethys at the School shop.

For all these reasons (which were quite apart from party considerations)
it was decided _nem. con_. that Rollitt was a "good old sort" and must
be stuck by.

Whereupon the nine of them sallied out arm in arm across the Green, on
the look-out for some one who might hold a contrary opinion.

After some search they found a Modern middle-boy, who, catching sight of
Fisher minor, shouted, "How now!  Who nobbled the Club money?" which
made Fisher minor suddenly detach himself from his company, and
shouting, "That's him!" start in pursuit.  What a bull-dog it was
getting, to be sure!

The whole party joined in the hue-and-cry, and might have run the
fugitive down, had not the head-master stalked across the Green at that
moment on his way to Mr Wakefield's.

At sight of him they pulled up short, looked unutterably amiable, doffed
their caps, and made as though they were merely out to take the air on
this beautiful November afternoon.

To Fisher minor the interruption was a sad one.  That fellow was the
borrower of his half-crown; for weeks he had lost sight of him.  Now,
suddenly, chance had seemed to bring both man and money within reach,
when, alas! the Harpy swooped down and took off the prize from under his
very nose.

The doctor having passed, they continued their search for any one who
had a bad word to say for Rollitt.

But as it was nearly dark, and rain was falling, the craven maligners
kept indoors, and would not be caught.

So the juniors relieved themselves by giving three cheers for Rollitt
under every window round the Green, and then fell to abusing Fisher
minor because his brother, Fisher major, had lost the money which
Rollitt was said to have stolen.

"There's no doubt that kid's at the bottom of it," said Percy.  "First
of all, he's a Classic cad."

Here the speaker was obliged to pause, on a friendly admonition from the
boot of his brother Wally.

"He's a Classic kid," continued he.

"You said cad."

"I said cad? do you hear that, you chaps?  Thinks I don't know how to
spell."

"You said he was a Classic cad."

"There you are; you've said it now.  Kick him, you chaps.  How dare he
say he's a Classic cad?" said Percy.

This verbal squabble being settled at last, Percy proceeded to explain
Fisher minor's position.

"If he hadn't come to Fellsgarth, Rollitt would have been smashed to
bits over the falls.  And if Rollitt had been smashed to bits--"

"He couldn't have bought six Abernethys at the shop," suggested D'Arcy.

"Right you are!  And what's more, he couldn't have eaten them if he had,
and he couldn't have run away.  There you are, I said this kid was at
the bottom of it."

"But who'd have collared the money in that case?" asked Ashby.

Percy reflected.  This was a decided point.

"Well, you see," said he, "it's this way.  If young Fisher minor hadn't
been born, he wouldn't have had a governor and a mater, and if he hadn't
had a governor and a mater, no more would Fisher major.  And if Fisher
major hadn't had a governor and a mater he'd never have been elected
treasurer, and if he'd not been elected treasurer he wouldn't have lost
the money.  So you see the young un's at the bottom of it again."

"I know a shorter way than that," said D'Arcy.  "If young Fisher minor
hadn't fetched Rollitt up to vote that day, Fisher major wouldn't have
been elected, and then he couldn't have lost the money."

"Isn't that what I said?" said Percy, indignant to be thus summarily
paraphrased.

"Are you going to lick me for being born?" inquired Fisher minor.

"Good mind to.  It's all your fault good old Rollitt's gone."

"Those six Abernethys won't last him long," suggested Cash.

"No.  We must keep a stock of them now, and call them `Rollitt's
particular.'  I fancy they might fetch three-halfpence each."

"I say," said Wally, "I vote we find Rollitt.  He's not a bad sort, you
know."

"All very well," said Percy, "if one only knew where to look."

"It's my notion he's either gone home or to the top of Hawk's Pike.  I
don't well see where else he could be."

"London?" suggested Cottle.

"Not got the money."

"Walked there?"

"Not got the boots."

"He can't be hanging about near here.  Everybody knows him.  No; you bet
he's gone to the top of Hawk's Pike, and he's going to stay there till
the clouds roll by."

This brought up a painful reminiscence.  None of the party, except
Wally, exactly favoured the idea of another attempt on the great
mountain.

"Tell you what," said Percy, "those biscuits will last him over to-
night.  We'll see if there's any news of him in the morning, and if not
we'll organise an expedition to find him.  I say, let's go and have
another shop committee somewhere."

"Where?"

"Suppose we have it in Rollitt's study.  He was a jolly good sort, you
know.  It would please him."

The logic of this proposition did not detain the meeting.

They decided to go in the usual way.  That is, the four Classic boys
boldly marched into their house together, and the five Moderns dropped
in one by one artlessly and quite by accident.

As Fisher minor passed his brother's door he thought he would just look
in.  At the same moment the house matron, with a very important face,
was bounding into the room.

"Master Fisher," said she, "Mrs Wisdom's just sent back that flannel
shirt of yours."

"Oh!  At last.  She's only had it six weeks.  About long enough," said
Fisher major.  "I'd given it up for lost."

"It got left at the bottom of the bag, and she never noticed it till
last night.  And what do you think, Master Fisher! there was _this_ in
the breast pocket."  And she handed him a little brown paper parcel.

Fisher major snatched at it with an ejaculation more like horror than
anything else, and tore the paper open.

Four sovereigns and some silver dropped on to the table.

"Why," gasped he, "that's it!  I remember now.  I got it on the field
just before the Rendlesham match, and stuck it in that pocket, and it
went clean out of my head.  Oh, my word, what _have_ I done?  What an
awful mess I've made!"

Not even Fisher minor stayed to dispute this statement, but hurried off
with the great news to the shop committee next door.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

COMING TO.

Fisher major's discovery put the finishing touch to the discomfiture of
the Modern seniors.

And the manner in which they came by the news of it by no means tended
to salve the wound which it inflicted.

The shop committee was so convulsed by the intelligence which Fisher
minor brought, that they then and there promised themselves the pleasure
of conveying the good news to Rollitt's accusers in person.  They
accordingly adjourned in a body to the Modern side.

"Won't Clapperton grin!" said Percy.  "I say, you chaps, we may as well
let him have it one at a time.  Then he'll hear it nine times over, do
you see?  I'll go first."

The idea seemed a good one, but risky.  Cottle calculated that after
about the fourth time Clapperton would be a little riled.  He therefore
modestly proposed to follow Percy.  Cash and Lickford competed smartly
for the third place, the former being successful.  Ramshaw, having to
come fifth, had decided misgivings as to the fun of the thing; while the
Classic juniors declined to play unless all the others remained on the
spot ready to back up in case of emergency.

It was also decided that, for precautionary reasons, the key of
Clapperton's door should be removed for the time being, lest he should
try to lock the good news out; and that an interval of two minutes
should be allowed to elapse between each messenger's announcement.

Little dreaming of the exquisite torture being prepared for him,
Clapperton sat in his study engaged in the farce of preparation.

He had plenty to think of besides lessons.  Things had all gone wrong
with him.  Dangle and he had fought.  Brinkman, after his thrashing by
Corder, no longer counted.  Fullerton had rebelled, and was taking boys
over every day to the enemy.  Corder had successfully defied his--
Clapperton's--authority, and the juniors snapped their fingers at him.

And yet Clapperton had come up this term determined to lay himself out
for his side, and be the most popular prefect in Fellsgarth!

His one comfort was that the Classics were under a cloud too.  One of
their number was a runaway thief; and a stigma rested on their side
worse than any that attached to the Moderns.

He was trying to make the most of this questionable consolation when the
door opened, and Percy bounced in.

"I say, Clapperton; Fisher's found the money.  Rollitt's not a thief.
Ain't you glad?  Hurray!"

And, without waiting, he retired as suddenly as he had come.

Clapperton gaped at the door by which he had gone in amazement.  He had
never calculated on this.  This was the worst thing yet.  It showed
Yorke had been right, and that he and Dangle--

The door opened again, and Cottle ran in.  "Hurray, Clapperton!  The
money's found.  Rollitt's no thief.  Ain't you glad?"  And he, too,
vanished.

There must be something in it.  What a fool he would look to all
Fellsgarth!  Perhaps it was only a plot, though, to shield Rollitt.
Perhaps--

The door once more swung open, and in jumped Cash.

"Clapperton, I say--Hooray!  That money's been found.  Rollitt's no
thief.  Ain't you glad?"

Hullo!  At this rate he would get to know the news.  How they would crow
on the other side!  He wondered if Fisher major had done it on purp--

Again there was a scuffle of feet at the door, and Lickford stepped in.

"Oh!  Clapperton," he said.  "Hooray, Clapperton!  The money's turned
up, and Rollitt's no thief.  Ain't you glad?--and, oh, I say,
Clapperton--hooray!"

"Come here," said Clapperton, sternly.

But, oh dear no; Lickford was pressed, and couldn't stay.

"The young asses!" growled Clapperton.  "Why can't they keep their
precious news to themselves?  If they'd tried, they couldn't have made
bigger nuisances of themselves.  I suppose, now, Yorke will--"

The door swung open again, and Ramshaw, hanging on to the handle, swung
in with it.

"Hooray, Clapperton!  Rollitt's no thief.  That money's turned up.
Ain't you glad?  I am--good evening."

This final greeting was cut short by a ruler which Clapperton sent
flying at the messenger's head.  Ramshaw dodged in time, and the ruler
flew out into the passage, where it was promptly captured by Fisher
minor, whose turn came next.

"Thank goodness that's the end of the young cads!" growled Clapperton.
"They've done it on purpose; and I'll pay them out for it.  That ass,
Fisher major, he's bound to--"

Here there came a modest tap at the door, and Fisher minor peeped in,
apologetically.

"Well, what do you want?  You've no business on this side; go to your
own house."

"All right, Clapperton," said Fisher, speaking with unwonted rapidity.
"I only thought you'd like to know my brother's found the money.
Hurray!  Rollitt's no thief; ain't you glad?--Yeow!"

This last exclamation was in response to a grab from the enraged
Clapperton, which, though it failed to catch the messenger, clawed his
face.

"I've had enough of this," said the senior.  "I don't care--.  Hullo!
where's my key?"

The key was not to be seen.  He looked out into the passage; it was not
there.  No one else was in sight.

He returned viciously to his seat at the table, and began to read again.

The door had opened, and Ashby, on tip-toe, was in the room before the
senior noticed the fresh intrusion.

"Rollitt's no thief; ain't you glad?  The money's found.  Hurray,
Clapperton!--done it!" exclaimed Ashby, all in one breath, dancing out
of the room in conscious pride at his exploit.

"All very well," said D'Arcy, whose turn came next; "how am I to do it?"

"No shirking," said Wally; "I come after you."

"Look here," said D'Arcy; "if you chaps give me a leg-up, I'll let him
have it through his window.  I can reach round from this passage window
to his if you hang on to my legs."

"Good dodge," said Wally, admiringly, "but we'd better turn the key on
the door first.  If he came out and spotted us holding you, we might
have to drop you."

So the key was quietly put in the lock and turned; and D'Arcy, firmly
held by the heels, wriggled himself out of the window, and, with the aid
of a pipe, pulled himself up, with his face to the window of
Clapperton's study.

That worthy was beginning to congratulate himself that he would be
spared a further repetition of the uncomfortable news that night, when a
sudden, loud voice at one of the open lattice panes almost startled him
out of his skin.

"Oh, Clapperton!  Ain't you glad?  Rollitt's no thief.  The money's
found.  Good evening--have you used our soap?  Haul in, you chaps!
Sharp!"

The persecuted senior, after the first surprise, made a frantic rush,
first at the window, and then, finding the bird flown, at the door.  The
latter was locked.  He could hear a scuffling and scrambling in the
lobby outside, followed by a stampede; after which dead silence
prevailed, save for the vicious kicking of the imprisoned hero at his
own door.

"Whew!" said Wally, fanning himself when the juniors were safe back in
Percy's study.  "That was a squeak, if you like.  How on earth am I to
do it?"

"Better let him off," suggested some one.

Wally resented the suggestion as an insult.

"Not likely," said he.  "I'll do it.  I don't care, if you all back up."

And in a minute, when the sound of the kicking had ceased, and
Clapperton had apparently retired once more to his work, he crept out
into the lobby, followed stealthily by the whole band.

As they passed the head of the stairs, whose voice should they hear
below, inquiring of a middle-boy if Clapperton was in the house, but the
doctor's?

"Yes, sir; shall I tell him you want him?" said the boy.

"No, I'll go up to his room," said the head-master.

"Whew!" said Wally, "what a go! and the door's locked on the outside!"

"I'll go and turn it quietly," said Percy, "if you back up in case he
flies out."

But the precaution was not needed.  Percy, who luckily had just taken
off his boots, slipped up silently to the door, and the others from
their lurking-place saw him quietly turn the key and then walk back,
evidently unheard by the prisoner within.

He passed the stair-head just before the doctor came up, and to their
great relief ran into the arms of his friends unchallenged.

The doctor, indeed, was too pre-occupied to dream that, as he went to
Clapperton's study, nine small heads were craning out of a door at the
end of the passage, watching his every step.

"I say," whispered Ashby, in tones of horror, "suppose Clap thinks it's
one of us, and goes for him!"

"My eye, what a go!" ejaculated Cash.

They saw the stately figure stand a moment at the door and turn the
handle.

Next moment he reeled back with an exclamation of amazement, nearly
felled to the ground by a bulky dictionary hurled at his head!

The nine lurkers fairly embraced one another in horror at the sight of
this awful outrage; and when, a moment after, they saw the doctor gather
himself together and return to the charge, this time closing the door
behind him, they did not envy the unlucky Clapperton the awkward five
minutes in store for him.

How the two arranged matters no one could say.  But as no sounds of
violence issued, and the doctor did not summon any one to fetch his
cane, they concluded Clapperton had offered a sufficiently humble
apology for his mistake.

"Hold on, now," said Wally, after three minutes had passed; "I'll try it
now--it's my only chance.  You Classic kids be ready to cut home with me
as soon as I come back."

So, starting at a run like one who had come a long distance and expected
to find the senior alone, he dashed unceremoniously into Clapperton's
study, of course not appearing to notice the distinguished company
present, crying--

"I say, Clapperton.  Hooray!  The money's found.  Rollitt's no thief.
Ain't you glad!  Oh, the doctor!  I beg your pardon, sir."

The next moment he, D'Arcy, Ashby, and Fisher minor were descending the
stairs three steps at a time on the way back to Mr Wakefield's as fast
as their legs would carry them, and with all the righteous satisfaction
of men who had done their duty at all costs.

"I reckon," said Wally, "he pretty well knows about it now--and if he
don't, the doctor will rub it in."

The unfortunate Clapperton, indeed, required no one to "rub in" the fact
that he had made a mess of things.

The doctor did not attempt to do it.  He merely carried the news of the
finding of the money, and desired Clapperton, as the head of the house,
to make it known as widely as possible.

"I say nothing now of the cruel wrong which has been inflicted by hasty
suspicion on Rollitt.  That shadow is still on the School.  But the
worst shadow, that a Fellsgarth boy was a thief, is happily removed, and
I wish every boy in this house to hear of it at the earliest possible
moment."

And the doctor went, leaving Clapperton to gulp down the bitter pill as
best he could.

Why should he have the job to do?  He had not been the first to start
the suspicions.  Dangle had done that--Dangle, with whom he had fought.
Why should not Dangle be called upon to put it right?  Unluckily, Dangle
was not the captain of Forder's.  He was not as responsible in starting
the rumour as Clapperton, in his position, had been in adopting it.

It was more than he could bring himself to, to summon the house and
announce the news publicly.  If Dangle and Brinkman had been with him
still, the three of them together might have brazened it out.  But his
colleagues were sulking in their own quarters, and whatever had to be
done must be done singlehanded.

He therefore sat down in no very happy frame of mind and wrote out the
following curt notice for the house-boards.--

"Notice.

"The head-master wishes it to be known that the Club money supposed to
be missing has been found by the treasurer.

"Geo.  Clapperton."

This ungracious document he copied out three times, and taking advantage
of every one being in his study for preparation, affixed with his own
hand on the notice boards at the house-door and on each landing.

"There!" said he, with a sneer of disgust, as he returned to his own
room, "let them make the most of that."

An hour later the dormitory bell sounded, and he could hear the
scuffling of feet on the lobby outside, and the clamour of voices as
boys hustled one another in front of the boards.  Evidently the majority
regarded the announcement in a jocular manner; and when a distant shout
of laughter came up from the passage below, and down from the landing
above, it was clear that Forders did not take the matter very much to
heart.

"It was ridiculous, when you come to think of it," soliloquised
Clapperton, "that a blundering ass like Fisher major should have brought
the School into such a precious mess."

The noise gradually died away as fellows one by one dropped of to bed.

Clapperton waited till they were gone before he followed.  As he passed
the notice board he glanced at the document which had lately cost him so
much pain.  It was still there; but not as he left it.  A sentence had
been squeezed in between his own words and his signature at the bottom
of the sheet, which, as it was a fair imitation of his back-sloped
handwriting, had all the appearance of forming part of his manifesto.
Clapperton gasped with fury as he read the amended notice:--

"Notice.

"The head-master wishes it to be known that, the Club money supposed to
be missing has been found by the treasurer, and that I am a beast and a
sneak to have accused Rollitt of stealing it.

"Geo.  Clapperton."

He tore the paper from the board, and stamped on it in his rage.  Then
he went downstairs to look at the notice on the school-door.  It read
precisely like the other, the imitation being perhaps better.  He stayed
only to tear this down, and proceeded to the other landing, where the
same insult confronted him.

Who the author might be he was free to guess.

As he lay awake that night, tossing and turning, he racked his brain to
devise some retribution.

And yet, his more sensible self told him, hadn't he been leading up to
this all the term?  What had he done to make the fellows respect, much
more like, him?  He had bullied, and swaggered, and set himself against
the good of the School.  The fellows who followed him only did so in the
hope of getting something--either fun or advantage--out of the
agitation.  They didn't care twopence about Clapperton, and were ready
enough to drop him as soon as ever it suited their turn.  The one or two
things he could do well, and for which anybody respected him--as, for
instance, football--he had deliberately shut himself off from, leaving
his authority to depend only on the very qualities he had least cause to
be proud of.

It was easy enough to say that Brinkman and Dangle cut even a poorer
figure over this wretched business than he.  But who troubled their
heads about Brinkman and Dangle?  The former had already been snuffed
out hopelessly, and dared not show his face.  Dangle, as everybody knew,
had a personal grudge against Rollitt, and was unhampered by scruples as
to how he scored.  But he--Clapperton--he had always tried to pose as a
decent sort of fellow, with some kind of interest in the good of the
School and some sort of notion about common honour and decency.  Ugh!
this was what had come of it!  As he lay awake that night, the sound of
the laughter round the notice boards and the "Ain't you glad?" of the
juniors dinned in his ears, sometimes infuriating, sometimes humiliating
him; but in either case mockingly reminding him that Clapperton's
greatest enemy in Fellsgarth was the captain of the Modern side.

Next morning brought no news of the missing boy, and a vague feeling of
anxiety spread through the School.  Boys remembered how proud and
sensitive Rollitt had been, and how dreadful was the accusation against
him.  Suppose he had done something desperate?  He had cared little
enough for danger when all went well.  Would he be likely to care more,
now that the School was in league against him, pointing to him as a
thief, and hounding him out of its society?

All sorts of dreadful possibilities occurred both to masters and boys;
and all the while a feeling of fierce resentment was growing against the
fellows whose accusations had been the cause of all the mischief.

Dangle, as he crossed the Green to class, was hooted all the way.
Brinkman was followed about with derisive cheers, and cries of "Look
out!  Corder's coming"; and Clapperton, when he appeared, was silently
cut.  Fellows went out of the way to avoid him; and the chair on either
side of him was left vacant in Hall.

"Did you hear," said Ramshaw to his neighbour at the prefects' table at
dinner-time, "that they've begun to drag the lake to-day?"

A grim silence greeted the question.  Fellows tried to go on with their
meal.  But somehow Ramshaw had destroyed every one's appetite.

"Nonsense!" said Yorke.  "He took food with him.  You forget that."

"That looks as if he'd gone off the beaten track somewhere," said
Fullerton.

"It does--and Hawk's Pike is as likely a place as any other," said
Yorke.

"Whew! there was frost on it the other night," some one said.  "I wish
the doctor would let us go out and look for him.  We've a much better
chance of finding him than police and guides."

Here the signal was given to rise, and every one dispersed.  Yorke
stayed--one of the last.  As he went out he caught sight of a solitary
figure walking moodily ahead, with hands dug in pockets and head down,
the picture of dejection.

Yorke could hardly recognise in this back view his old rival and enemy,
Clapperton.  Yet he it was.  A few weeks ago, and he always marched to
and from his house in the boisterous company of friends and admirers.
Now he was left alone.

A flush of something like shame mounted to the captain's cheeks.  He had
no love for this fellow.  He owed him little gratitude.  And yet the
sight of him thus solitary, cut off from the stream, stirred him.

Did he not try, in his humble way, to follow in the footsteps of One Who
said, "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you"?  And was not
this an opportunity for putting that faith of his to the test of
practice?

He quickened his pace, and overtook Clapperton.  The Modern senior
wheeled round half-savagely.

"Clapperton," said the captain, "we've been enemies all this term.  I've
thought harshly of you, and you've thought harshly of me.  Why shouldn't
we be friends?"

"What!" almost growled Clapperton; "are you making a fool of me?"

"No--but we've tried hating one another long enough.  Let's try being
friends for a change."

They stood facing one another; the one serene, honest, inviting; the
other dejected and doubting.  But as their eyes met the fires kindled
again in Clapperton's face, and the cloud swept off his brow.  He pulled
his hand from his pocket and held it out.

"Done with you, Yorke.  You're the last fellow in Fellsgarth I expected
to call friend just now."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

THE VOYAGE OF THE COCK-HOUSE.

Yorke was roused before daybreak next morning by a voice at his bedside.

"Is that you, Yorke?"

The voice was Mr Stratton's.  The captain bounded to his feet at once.

"What is it, sir?  Has he been found?"

"No," said the master; "no news.  Every place has been searched where he
would be likely to be, except the mountain.  It seems a very off-chance
that he has gone up there; still, it is possible.  He has been on it
once or twice before.  I am going there now.  Would you care to come
too?"

The captain gratefully acquiesced.  For a week he had been chafing at
the doctor's orders that no boy should go beyond the bounds.  His
request to be allowed to undertake this very expedition had been twice
refused already.

"The doctor has given you an _exeat_ if you wish to go," said Mr
Stratton.  "We are to take a guide, and it is quite understood we may be
late in getting back.  I shall be glad of your company."

Yorke was ready in ten minutes--thankful at last to be allowed to do
something, yet secretly doubting if anything would come of this forlorn
quest.

Apart from Rollitt, however, good did come of it to Fellsgarth.  For
during the long walk master and boy got to understand one another better
than ever before.  With a common ambition for the welfare of the School,
and a common trouble at the dissensions which had split it up during the
present term, they also discovered a common hope for better times ahead.

They discussed all sorts of plans, and exchanged confidences about all
sorts of difficulties.  And all the while they felt drawn close to one
another, exchanging the ordinary relations of master and boy for those
of friend and friend.

Some of my readers may say that Mr Stratton must have been a very
foolish master to give himself away to a boy, or that Yorke must have
been a very presuming boy to talk so familiarly to a master.  Who cares
what they were, if they and Fellsgarth were the better for that
morning's walk?

"In many ways," said Mr Stratton, "a head boy has as much
responsibility for the good of a school as a head-master--always more
than an assistant master.  You could wreck the School in a week if you
chose; and it is in your hands to pull it together more than any of us
masters, however much we should like to do it.  And you'll do it, old
fellow!"

And so they turned up the lane that led round to the back of the
mountain.

The news that Mr Stratton and the captain had gone up Hawk's Pike to
look for Rollitt soon spread through Fellsgarth that morning.  The souls
of our friends the juniors were seriously stirred by it.

Their promise--or shall we say threat?--to organise a search-party up
the mountain on their own account had been lost sight of somewhat in the
exciting distractions of the last twenty-four hours; but now that they
found the ground cut from under their feet they were very indignant.
Secretly, no doubt, they were a little relieved to find that they had
been forestalled in the perilous venture of a winter ascent of the
formidable pike they had such good cause to remember.

It was a mean trick of Yorke's to "chowse" them out of the credit, they
protested.  Now he would get all the glory, and they would get none.

"I tell you what," said Percy.  "It's my notion Rollitt's not gone up
the mountain at all.  It's just a dodge of those two to get a jolly good
spree for themselves.  Pooh!  They'll get lost.  We shall have to go and
look for them, most likely."

"And then," said Lickford, "somebody will have to come and look for us."

"And Rollitt's not here to do it," said Fisher minor.

This cast the company back on to their original subject.

"It's my notion," said Wally, "he's got on the island in the middle of
the lake, like Robinson Crusoe."

"Rather a lark," said Ashby, "to get up a search-party and go and look
for him there."

The idea took wonderfully.  To-day was "Founder's Day," a whole holiday.
They would certainly go and look for Rollitt on the island.

The preparations disclosed an odd conception on the part of the
explorers of the serious nature of their quest.  Their stated object was
to rescue a lost schoolfellow.  Why, therefore, did they decide to take
nine pennyworth of brandy-balls, a football, a pair of boxing-gloves,
and other articles of luxury not usually held to be necessary to the
equipment of a relief expedition?

As regards food, they possessed too keen a recollection of the straits
they had been put to up the mountain a few weeks ago to neglect that
important consideration now.

Naturally, ham and Abernethys were the victuals selected.  Had not
Rollitt made these classical as the staff of life during voluntary exile
from school?

They were compelled to put up with a very small sample of the former.
Lickford had been bequeathed a bone by his senior yesterday, to which
adhered a few fragments of a once small ham.  Possibly it might, with
careful carving, furnish nine small slices.

It was better than nothing.  They would make up for its deficiency by a
double lot of Abernethys.

So they trooped off to the shop.

According to their own rules, this establishment was only open between
11 and 12 in the morning, and not at all on holidays.

But another rule said that the committee might in certain cases suspend
or alter the rules.

Whereupon Percy moved, and Ashby seconded, the following resolution:
"That this shop be, and is, hereby opened for the space of five
minutes."  The motion was carried unanimously.

D'Arcy and Cottle, whose turn it was to be on duty, solemnly took down
the shutters, and ranged themselves behind the counter.

"What can I do for you, my little dears?" said the former,
encouragingly.  "Money down.  No tick.  Try some of our Rollitt's
particular--three-halfpence each."

"No, they're not, you cheat!--they're a penny.  We'd better have two
each," said Wally.

"Hullo!  I say," exclaimed D'Arcy.  "Look here, you fellows."

He pointed to the heap of Abernethy biscuits, on the top of which lay a
sixpence.

"That's what you call looking after the money," said Wally.  "Left that
there all night."

"No--not a bit of it.  But I tell you what," said D'Arcy, who had
rapidly been counting the pile of biscuits; "there were twenty-four
biscuits there when we left last night.  I'm certain of it; weren't
there, young Cottle?"

"Yes.  I remember that," testified Cottle.

"Very well; then some one's been here in the night, for there are only
eighteen biscuits now, and this sixpence."

"Perhaps Yorke got some before he started?"

"How could he?  No one can get in here without the latch-key; and only
the two chaps who are on duty keep that."

"Perhaps it's the owls in the belfry?"

"They don't generally pay ready money for what they take."

"I say!" exclaimed Wally; "I expect it's Rollitt.  He'd have finished
his others by this time, and he sneaked back in the night for some more.
Good old Rollitt!"

Wally did not stay to explain how Rollitt could have got in any more
than any one else.  His suggestion made a deep impression.  It touched
them to feel that, amid all his distresses, Rollitt was loyal to the
School shop; and if anything was needed to spur them on to his rescue,
this did it.

They bought up the remaining eighteen biscuits between them, and sallied
forth.

"You see," said Wally, "it's much more likely to be the island than the
mountain.  There's water there, for one thing."

"There's water on the mountain," said Ashby; "plenty."

"But not good to drink, you ass!" argued Wally.

"And there's that old broken boat-house to live in, and lots of wood to
make fires, and ducks to bag and fish to catch.  I say!  I expect he's
having rather a lark."

The prospect of sharing in his wild sports urged them on still faster.

At the lake-side a new problem arose.  If Rollitt was on the island, how
had he got there?  And, still more important, how were they to get
there?  Widow Wisdom's boat had already been laid up for the winter; and
the few others, which in the summer were generally kept at the river-
mouth for the use of the boys, had been taken back to Penchurch.  The
only craft available was a flat-bottomed punt used by fishermen, and at
present moored to a stake at the river-bank.  It was capacious,
certainly, but not exactly the sort of boat in which to get up much
pace, particularly as its sole apparent mode of propulsion was by means
of two very long boat-hooks, one on either side.  These details,
however, presented few obstacles to the minds of the enterprising
explorers.  The punt was in many ways adapted for a voyage such as they
proposed to take.  There was room to walk about in it.  Nay, who should
say the boxing-gloves and football might not have scope for themselves
within its ample lines?

The one question was whether the boat-hooks were long enough to touch
bottom all the way from the shore to the island.  Wally paced one, and
found it measured eighteen feet.

"Ought to do," said he; "it's bound not to be deeper than that."

So the punt, which was christened the "Cock-house" for the occasion, was
loosed from her moorings, the Abernethys and knuckle-bone and other
stores were put on board, the boat-hooks, by a combined effort, were got
into position, and the party embarked for the rescue of Rollitt.

Thanks to the stream, their progress at first was satisfactory.  They
were delighted to find how easily they went.  Wally with one boat-book
on one side, and Percy with the other on the other side, had
comparatively little to do except to prevent their hooks getting stuck
in the mud at the bottom, and refusing to come out.  Any one watching
them would have said these boys had been born in a barge.  They carried
their long poles to the prow, and plunged them in there with a mighty
splash.  Then they shoved away, till the end of the poles came within
reach of their hands.  Then, in perfect step and time, they started to
march, each down his own side of the boat, calling on their friends and
admirers to get out of the way.  Then, as they neared the stern, and the
prospect of pulling up their hooks and returning fora'd for another
"punt" loomed ahead, their faces grew anxious and concerned.  They began
to hold on "hard all," a yard from the end of the walk, and tug
frantically to get themselves free.  Sometimes the hook came out easily,
in which case they fell backwards into the arms of their friends.  At
other times it stuck, and they had to detain the progress of the boat a
minute or more to get it out.  And sometimes it all but escaped them,
and continued sticking up out of the water while the barge itself
floated on.  Happily, the last tragedy never quite came off, although it
was periodically imminent.

When, however, the stream opened into the lake, the progress became much
less exciting.  The water was a little lumpy, and had a tendency, while
they were walking back at the end of one punt in order to start another,
of jumping the "Cock-House" back into precisely the same position from
which she had lately started.

After about half an hour's fruitless efforts the twins were seized with
a generous desire not to monopolise the whole of the fun of the voyage.

"Like to have a go!" said Wally to D'Arcy.

"You may have a turn if you like, Lick," said Percy.

Whereupon D'Arcy and Lickford took up the rowing for the "Cock-House,"
greatly assisted and enlivened in their operations by the advice and
encouragement of the late navigators.

"Two to one on Lick," cried Wally, as the two started their mad career
down the boat.  "Look out! he's gaining."

"You've made her go an inch and a half," said Percy.

"Hang on tight now, and pull it up," said Wally, as Lickford, red in the
face with excitement, was straining himself to release the hook from the
mud.

"Keep her trim," said Percy, laying hold of D'Arcy's feet, as the latter
was gradually letting himself be hauled out of the boat by his
refractory pole.

In due time D'Arcy and Lickford unselfishly gave up the poles to Cottle
and Ashby; and they, after a reasonable season of struggle and peril,
nobly ceded them to Ramshaw and Cash, Fisher minor waiving his claim,
and electing to sit "odd man out" and steer.

As at the end of an hour and a half's manful shoving the net progress
made was a yard back into the stream of the river, the talents of the
helmsman were not put to a very severe test.

"I say, it's rather slow," said Wally; "let's have some of Rollitt's
particular."

So while Percy with a small pair of scissors--none of the party,
marvellous to relate, had brought a knife--was carving the remnant of
ham, and Ashby was counting out nine brandy-balls from the bag, each
member of the party produced one of his Abernethys, and fell-to with all
the appetite that waits on hard and honest toil.

"Not much of a pace yet," remarked D'Arcy.  "Why, we're going better now
we've stopped rowing than we were before."

"That's because the wind's changed," said Wally.  "If we'd only got a
sail we could make her go."

"Why not stick up the two poles, and fasten our coats or something
between for a sail!" suggested Percy.

"Good idea! the poles are long enough for all the nine.  One of 'em can
go through right sleeves, and the other through left.  It'll make a
ripping sail."

So, despite the season of the year, the nine voyagers divested
themselves of their coats, which were industriously threaded by the
sleeves on either pole.  The top coat was spiked by the hooks, and those
below were ingeniously buttoned one to the other to keep them up.

Every one agreed it made a ripping sail.  The difficulty was to hoist
it.  There were no holes in which to fix the parallel masts.  They would
have to be held in position, as the breeze was stiffening, and it
required all hands aloft.

At length, by superhuman exertions, the complex fabric was slowly
hoisted to the perpendicular, looking very like a ladder, up which nine
scarecrows were clambering.  However, no matter what it looked like now,
as Wally predicted, they'd spank along.

"We're going already," gasped he, panting with the exertion of holding
up his mast.  "Look out now! here's a nice breeze coming."

He was right.  Next moment the vast foresail fell with a run by the
board, and the nine athletes below were nearly shot into the air by the
force of the collapse.  The coats, fortunately, held together
sufficiently well to enable them to be hauled on board in a piece; but
as they were soaked through, they afforded very little comfort to the
distressed seamen, who decided forthwith to shorten sail at once, and
take to the poles once more.

But by this time the "Cock-House," thanks to the tremendous impetus it
had just received, was twenty yards from the shore; and Wally, when he
put down his pole, nearly went after it, in the vain search for a
bottom.

"Here's a go!" said he; "I say, you chaps, I almost fancy, after all,
Rollitt must be up the mountain.  What do you say?"

"I thought so all along," said Fisher minor.  "If he is, Yorke and
Stratton will find him."

"Good old Yorke!  I say--we may as well back water a bit."

Easier said than done.  The old punt, now she was once out on the vasty
deep, behaved pretty much as she and the wind between them pleased.  For
a time it looked very much as if, after all the explorers would reach
their destination.

But presently--just, indeed, as the explorers had started a small
football match (Association rules), Classics against Moderns, to keep
themselves warm, the fickle breeze shifted, and sent the "Cock-House"
lumbering inshore a mile or so north of the river-mouth.  The Classics
had just scored their 114th goal as she grounded, and it was declared by
common consent that the voyage was at an end.

Luckily, she came ashore near to a little creek, into which, by
prodigious haulings and shovings, she was turned; and here, in a rude
way, they succeeded in mooring her until a more convenient season.

The call-over bell was just beginning to ring when the nine mariners got
back to Fellsgarth.

Great cheering was going on on the Green, and boys were crowding
together discussing some great news.

"What is it?--Rollitt turned up?" asked the juniors.

"No; haven't you heard?  Yorke and Stratton went up to look for him on
Hawk's Pike.  They didn't find him, but _they got to the top_!"

"Got to the top!  One of our chaps got to the top of Hawk's Pike.
Hurroo.  Yell, you chaps.  Bravo, Yorke!  Bully for Fellsgarth!"

"I wish they'd found Rollitt, all the same," said Fisher minor; "I'm
afraid he's gone for good."

"Not he.  Didn't we nearly find him to-day, you young muff?" retorted
Wally.  "Besides, a fellow who's gone for good wouldn't come and buy
sixpenny-worth of Abernethys at our shop in the night, would he?"

Fisher minor took what comfort he could from the assurance, and trooped
in with his fellow-adventurers to call-over.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

"BURY THE HATCHET!"

Notwithstanding Yorke's exploit, and the prevailing hopefulness of the
juniors, the feeling of gloom deepened on Fellsgarth when another day
ended, and no news was forthcoming of the lost boy.

To a great many it was a shock to hear he was not on the mountain.  From
what was known of his eccentricities and recklessness, it seemed as
likely as not he would retreat up there and remain till he was fetched
down.

When it was found he was not there, there seemed to be nowhere else left
to look.  The lake (quite independently of the eventful cruise of the
"Cock-house") had been thoroughly searched; Penchurch had been
ransacked; every cottage and home in the neighbourhood had been called
at.  The river-banks, up and down stream, had been searched too, and
daily communication with Rollitt's home made it increasingly clear he
had not gone there.

The incident of the six Abernethys and the 6 pence was not seriously
considered.  There was no evidence that Rollitt had effected the
mysterious purchase, and the eccentricities of the young shopmen left it
very doubtful whether more than half of that story was not a sensational
fiction of their own.

Masters and boys alike went to bed full of trouble and foreboding.

Fisher major, more perhaps than any one, took the situation to heart.
He had never ranged himself with Rollitt's accuser; yet, had it not been
for his bad management and stupidity, all the trouble would never have
come about.  Now, if anything grave had happened to the missing boy,
Fisher major felt that on his shoulders rested all the blame.

But his misery was turned into rage when, just before bedtime, a fag
came over with the following letter from Dangle:--

"I am not surprised you should be so ready to be imposed upon.  You have
done mischief enough already; but you have been robbed all the same.
Any one but a simpleton would see that the turning up of the money just
when it did was a suspicious coincidence.  What could be easier than for
the thief either to impose on Widow Wisdom, and get her to bring back
the money with the story about the shirt; or else, during one of his
frequent visits there, as soon as he saw that he was found out, to slip
it into the pocket himself!  Where he got it from I don't pretend to
guess; but I don't mind betting that somebody in the School is poorer by
£4 10 shillings for this tardy act of restitution.  It deceived no one
but you.  `None are so blind,' etcetera.

"R.  Dangle."

Fisher fairly tore his hair over this scoundrelly document.  His impulse
was to go over then and there, drag the writer out of his bed, and make
him literally swallow his own words.  He might have done it, had not the
captain just then looked in.

"Why, what's up?" said the latter, who seemed none the worse for his big
climb.  "What's the matter?"

"Matter?  Read this!" shouted Fisher.

Yorke read the letter.  An angry flush spread over his face as he did
so.

"He shall answer for it to-night!" said Fisher.  "No, not to-night.  Let
the cad have a night's rest.  He shall answer for it to-morrow, though,
before the whole School.  Let me have the letter, old man."

"If you'll promise to make him smart for it."

"You can make your mind easy about that."  Next morning, to the surprise
of every one, a notice appeared on the door of each house.

Notice.

"A School meeting is summoned for this afternoon at 3.

  "(Signed) C.  Yorke (Wakefield's).
  G.  Clapperton (Forder's).
  P.  Bingham (Stratton's).
  L.  Porter (Wilbraham's)."

"What's up now?" said Wally, as he read it.  "Like Clapperton's cheek to
go sticking his name under our man's--and old Bingham, too!  What right
has he to stick his nose in it?--and, ha, ha, Porter! that's the green
idiot in specs, who calls himself captain of Wilbraham's!  Well, I
never!"

"Shall you go?" asked D'Arcy.

"Rather!  Wonder what they're up to, though?"

"Perhaps Rollitt's found, and they're going to trot him out."

"Perhaps they're going to have an eight-handed mill, those four--you
know--like what we had."

"I know, when you rammed me below the belt," said Cottle.

"Crams.  You know I played on your third waistcoat button.  I was never
below it once."

"Perhaps Yorke's going to give a lecture on the ascent of Hawk's Pike."

"I know what it is.  They're going to give the chaps back their
subscriptions.  What a run there'll be on the shop directly after!"

This last rumour was industriously put about by the juniors, and was
believed in a good many quarters.

A new diversion, however, served to put aside speculation for a time.

"Hullo, who's that lout?" asked D'Arcy, as he and Wally, having shaken
off the others for a season, were "taking a cool," arm in arm near the
playing-field gate.

The object of this remark was a stalwart, middle-aged, labouring man,
who carried an American cloth bag in his hand, and, to judge by the mud
on his garments, had travelled some distance.  He was trying to open the
gate into the field, and on seeing our two juniors beckoned to them
inquiringly.

"You can't get in there," said Wally.  "You'll have to go to the other
gate at the Watch-Tower."

"Is this here Fellsgarth School, young master?" said the man.

"Rather," replied Wally.

"Is the governor at home!"

"Who--Ringwood?  I don't know; they'll tell you at the gate."

"He's come to mend the door of your young brother's room, I expect,"
said D'Arcy.  "I hope he won't bung up the squirt-hole while he's about
it."

"No.  I say, carpenter," said Wally, as the man was about to turn off in
the direction of the other gate, "when you mend that door in Forder's,
make it strong, do you hear?  It gets kicked at rather by fellows.  And
don't bung--"

"Carpenter?  I ain't no carpenter.  I want to see the governor."

Gruffly as the man spoke, he evidently regarded the two young gentlemen
as persons of some distinction, and lingered a moment longer to ask
another question.

"Beg your pardon, young gents," said he; "but you don't chance to know
if Alf Rollitt has come back?"

They gazed at him in amazement.

"Rollitt? no.  Do _you_ know where he is, I say?"

"Not come back?" said the man, hoarsely.  "I made sure as he'd be back
afore now."

"Do you know where he is?" repeated Wally.

"Not me--he's bound to be somewheres.  But the missus, she wouldn't rest
till I come and see."

"The missus!  I say, do you _know_ Rollitt?"

"Well, they do say it's a wise father as don't know his own child."

"What!  Are _you_ Rollitt's father?" asked they, glancing involuntarily
at the shabby clothes and rough, weatherbeaten face.

"Nothing to be ashamed of, are it?" said the stranger.  "'Tain't my
Alf's fault I ain't in gents' togs."

This rebuke abashed our two juniors considerably.

"Rather not," said Wally.  "Our lot's backing Rollitt up, you know.
We've been out to look for him, haven't we, D'Arcy?"

"Of course we have; good old Rollitt," said D'Arcy.

"Thank you kindly, young gents," said Mr Rollitt, who seemed rather
dazed.  "I ain't no scholar, nor no gent either.  But my boy Alf's a
good boy, and he don't mean no disrespect to the likes of you by running
away.  He's bound to be somewheres."

"I say," said Wally, "if you come round to the other gate, you can get
in--we'll show you where Ringwood's house is."

"Tell you what," said he to D'Arcy, as the two boys went back by the
field to meet him, "he doesn't seem a bad sort of chap--it won't do to
let my young brother Percy and those Modern cads get hold of him.  I
vote we nurse him on our side while he's here."

"All serene," said D'Arcy.  "Ask him to tea after the meeting."

"I suppose we shall have to let those other chaps be in it too,"
suggested Wally dubiously, after a moment.

"Better.  We'll all see him through together."

The spectacle of two juniors, looking very important, carefully
conducting an anxious-faced labouring man across the School Green, was
enough to rouse a little curiosity.  And when presently the bodyguard,
after sundry whispered communications, increased from two to nine, who
marched three in front, two behind, and two on either side of their
celebrity, speculation became active and warm.

The escort glared defiantly at any one who ventured to approach the
group; but when it was observed that they made straight for the doctor's
house, and one by one shook hands with the visitor on the doorstep,
there was very little doubt left as to who the stranger might be.

"Mind you come to tea," said Wally, as they parted.

"Don't you make no mistake, I'll be there," said the guest.

Work in school that morning dragged heavily.  The impending meeting was
perplexing the minds of not a few.  The phenomenon of.  Yorke's and
Clapperton's names appended to the same document puzzled boys who still
kept alive the animosity which had wrecked the School clubs earlier in
he term and brought the sports to a deadlock.  And the addition of the
names of the captains of the other two houses made it evident that the
whole School was concerned in the business.  This, coupled with the
mystery of Rollitt's disappearance, and the now notorious internecine
feuds of the Modern seniors, gave promise of one of the biggest meetings
ever held in Hall.

As to the juniors, they had a treble care on their mind.  First, the
meeting, and the expected refunding of the Club subscriptions; second,
the consequent run on the shop; and third, the "small and early."

In Wally's study afterwards to meet A.  Rollitt, Senior, Esq.

However, despite all these cares, the morning's work was got through,
the dreaded impositions were avoided, and when the midday meal was ended
a general rush was made for the familiar benches in Hall.

The state of doubt every one was in operated adversely to the usual
cheering.  Fellows didn't know whom they were expected to cheer.
Dangle, for instance, pale and sullen,--were the Moderns expected to
cheer him?  The Classics hissed him, which was one reason why his own
house should applaud.  But then, if they cheered Dangle, how should they
do about Clapperton, who had fought Dangle a week ago?  They got over
the difficulty by doing neither, but starting party cries which they
could safely cheer; and chaffing everybody all round.

Punctually at three, Yorke rose and said they no doubt were curious to
know what the meeting was called for.  It was called for one or two
purposes.  The first was to see if they could revive the School clubs.
(Cheers.)  He wasn't going to say a word of ancient history.
(Laughter.)  But as they stood now, they had a lot of fellows anxious to
play, they had the materials for as good a fifteen this winter, and as
good an eleven next spring (cheers), as any school in the country; and
yet the playing-fields stood idle, and the name of Fellsgarth was
dropping out of all the records.  They had had enough of that sort of
thing.  Every one was sick of it.  Fellows had agreed with him when it
was proposed to disband the clubs; he hoped they would agree with him
now that the time had come for reviving them.  But there was to be a
difference.  The clubs were not to be open to everybody, as heretofore.
They didn't want everybody.  (Hear, hear, from Wally, D'Arcy, Ashby, and
Fisher, as they pointed across to the Modern juniors.)  They only wanted
fellows who would play and _could_ play; as to the former, that of
course would be decided by the fellow himself, who would send in an
application to the committee.  As to the latter, that would be decided
by the captain.  (Oh!)  Yes, by the captain.  What's the good of a
captain if he's not to decide a matter like that?  And if the fellow is
not satisfied with the captain's decision, he may appeal to Mr
Stratton, the new president of the club.  (Cheers.)  There's nothing to
prevent any one who plays his best joining--there's nothing to prevent
those youngsters at the end of the room, who are kicking up such a row,
joining the clubs, as long as they work hard in the field.  (Cheers and
laughter.)  The fellows who won't be eligible are the louts, and those
who can play but won't.  (Loud cheers.)

Clapperton rose to second the motion.  He had lost a great deal of his
"side" during the last few days, and though he looked in better tiff
than he had done lately, the present occasion was evidently an effort.
He said: "Yorke has made a generous speech.  He avoided ancient history,
and therefore did not go into the reason why the clubs were dissolved
and the School sports came to smash.  I could tell you--but what's the
use?  You all know.  Yorke said to me before the meeting, `Let bygones
be bygones, old man--we were all to blame--bury the hatchet--let's get
right for the future.'  Gentlemen, there was one fellow who was not to
blame.  His name was _not_ Clapperton.  It was Yorke."  (Loud cheers.)
"But I say with him, if you let me, `Bury the hatchet.'" (Cheers.) "And
to prove it, I beg to hand in my name to the committee for election.  I
answer for myself that I am willing to play; and if the captain decides
that I can play," (laughter), "why, I will play."  (Loud applause.)

Fullerton and Corder both sprang up to support the motion.  The former
made way for Corder, who merely wished to say how delighted he was.  He
also voted for the burying of the hatchet.  He had minded being stopped
football more than anything else.  He gave in his name.  He would play,
and he might tell them that the captain had already told him he could
play.  (Laughter, and cries of "Blow your own trumpet.") All right--it
was the only thing he had to be cocky about; and he meant to be cocky.
He supported the motion.  (Cheers.)

Fullerton handed in his name, and was very glad to think that he and his
old friend Clapperton would have a chance of running up the field again
together.  ("If you're elected!" from the end of the room, and
laughter.)  Oh, of course, if he was elected.  He hoped when the
gentleman down there was captain, fifty years hence, he would deal as
liberally with candidates as he was sure Yorke would deal now.
(Laughter, at Wally's expense.)

The other prefects followed suit, and gave in their allegiance to the
new clubs.  Curiosity was alive to see what attitude Brinkman and Dangle
would adopt.  For a while it seemed as if they would take no part; but
at length, when Yorke was about to put the motion, Brinkman rose and
said, "I made up my mind when I came here I'd have no more to do with
the clubs.  But Yorke's `Bury the hatchet' gives a fellow a chance.  If
you mean that," (Yes, yes), "if this is a fresh start, here's my name!"
(Loud cheers.) "You needn't cheer.  I didn't mean to give it--but now I
have, I--I--won't shirk it," and he sat down hurriedly.

Then Dangle rose, with a sneer on his face.

"This sort of thing is infectious.  I can't feel quite so sure as some
of you about burying the hatchet; but, not to be peculiar, you may put
me down--"

"And I can tell you at once, and before all these fellows," said Yorke,
rising hotly, and interrupting, "that we won't have you!  And that
brings me to the other business--and that's about Rollitt.  We can't
bury the hatchet so easily, as far as he is concerned.  For he is still
absent, and no one knows what has become of him.  I'm not going to say a
word to make little of Fisher's major's mistake.  It was bad enough, in
all conscience, for Rollitt.  But it was only a mistake.  But what do
you fellows say of the cad who deliberately gets up a story about him;
and, even when he finds out there is not a shadow of truth in it,
repeats it in a worse form than before?  There are some her who believed
the first report and joined in the suspicions.  That was hardly to be
wondered at.  But every one of them had the decency, as soon as the
money was found, to admit that they had been wrong, and to regret their
unfair suspicion of a Fellsgarth fellow.  All but one--this cad here!
Only last night, you fellows, he wrote the letter I hold in my hand.  I
mean to read it to you, and I hope you won't forget it in a hurry."

"You shan't read it; it wasn't to you!" said Dangle, making a rush at
the paper; "give it back!"

"You shall have it back," said Yorke in a warmer temper than any one had
seen him in before, "when I've read it.  Stop, and listen _to it.
It'll_ do you good."

"Read away!" sneered Dangle, giving up the contest.  "It's the truth."

Yorke read, and as he proceeded, shame and anger rose to boiling-point
in the audience, so that towards the end the reader's voice was almost
drowned in the hisses.

"There," said the captain, crumpling up the paper in his hand and
flinging it at the writer's feet, "there's your letter; and until you
apologise to the whole school you have insulted, you needn't expect
we'll bury the hatchet!"

Dangle scowled round and tried to swagger.

"Is that all the business?" he sneered.

"No!" shouted some voices.  "He ought to be kicked."

"Wait a bit," cried Wally, excitedly, standing on a form, "there's
Rollitt's governor just come.  Some of our chaps have gone to fetch him.
He'll--"

Here the door opened, and, escorted by half a dozen of the juniors, Mr
Rollitt, looking more bewildered than ever, walked in.

He looked apologetically from one side to the other, saying, "Thank'ee
kindly," and "No offence, young gents," until he found himself at the
end of the Hall among the prefects.

Then Yorke got up again, still hot with temper, and a dead silence
ensued.  Dangle smiled at first.  But his face gradually blanched as he
looked round and found his retreat cut off, and guessed what was coming.

"Mr Rollitt," said Yorke, "we are your son's schoolfellows.  A great
wrong has been done him.  He has been suspected of being a thief, and
has run away.  We all now know that he's not a thief; and we are ashamed
that he has ever been suspected.  We hope he will come back, so that we
may tell him so.  But there is one fellow here who still says your son
is a thief, although he knows as well as we do he isn't.  What shall we
do to him?"

Mr Rollitt looked up and down, casting a glance first at his young
protectors at the end of the Hall, then scanning the benches before him,
then running his eye along the row of prefects, and finally taking the
measure of Yorke as he stood and waited for an answer.

Then suddenly the question seemed to come home.

"My son Alf a thief?  There's one of 'em says that, is there?  My son
Alf a thief?  Do to him!  Why, I'll tell you.  Just keep him till my son
Alf comes back, and make him go and say it to his face.  That's what _I_
should do to him, young gents."

"That's what we will do," said Yorke.  "The meeting is over."

And amid the excitement that ensued, the rush to put down names for the
new club, the cheers and hootings and hand-shakings of old enemies, Mr
Rollitt was carried off in triumph by his nine hosts to high tea in
Wally Wheatfield's room.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

THE WATCH-TOWER.

Wally's study--he always liked to call it a "study," but his friends
preferred to call it a den--could comfortably accommodate six.  The
juniors had frequently to own that nine, the normal size of the party,
was a jam.  When, in addition to that, a big, brawny man was thrown in,
it came to be a serious question as to how the four walls would sustain
the strain.

Wally, however, was determined to manage somehow.  He indignantly
rejected Percy's offer to his more spacious apartment over the way.  No.
He had captured the lion--he and D'Arcy--and they would entertain him
in their own den.

After all, it was not so bad.  It only meant letting the fire out and
putting one chair in the fender, and shoving the other end of the table
(which had been doubled in length by the addition of the table out of a
neighbouring room, that was within four inches of the same height) close
up against the door, which it was just possible to shut.  As, however,
the door opened outwards, it was necessary for the gentleman occupying
the foot of the table to sit out in the passage, much to the
inconvenience of the casual passers-by.

To a shy man like Mr Rollitt, it was a difficult position to find
himself the honoured guest of nine young gentlemen like these.

"Thank'ee kindly, young masters," said he, when Ashby relieved him of
his hat and Fisher minor of his bag, and Percy undermined him with a
chair, and Cottle handed him the _Boy's Own Paper_, and Cash came in
with a hassock, and D'Arcy put a railway rug over his knees.

Wally, whose ideas of hospitality were of the old school, deemed it
expedient, while tea was being served, to engage his guest on the
subject of the weather.

"Rather finer the last few days than it was the other week when it
rained?" said he.  "Rollitt's having fine weather for his trip."

This was an artful way of introducing the topic of the hour.

"Thank you kindly, yes.  He's bound to be somewheres, is my Alf,"
replied Mr Rollitt.

"It's all right; we're backing him up.  He made a ripping run for the
School against Rendlesham.  He bashed the ball through the scrimmage,
you know, and then nipped it up right under their noses and ran it
through.  They couldn't collar him, he bowled 'em over right and left,
and danced on 'em, and landed the touch clean behind the post."

"He meant no harm, young gents, didn't my Alf.  He ain't often wiolent,
he ain't.  There's no offence, I hope?" said the father, quite
overwhelmed by this alarming recital.

"No; it was a jolly good run.  You ought to have seen it; I and my lot
were up the oak, you know; we could have tucked you in.  My young
brother Percy and his Modern cads--k-i-d-s (I never can pronounce it)--
were on the steps."

"Oh," said the poor guest, feeling he ought to reciprocate the civility
of his entertainers.  "Steps is nice things to be on when you ain't got
nowheres else."

"Tea!" shouted Fisher minor, who with Ashby had been busily charging the
table.

It was now the turn of the hosts to be shy.  At this late period of the
term funds had run low, and extras were at a premium.  A busy hour had
been spent during the forenoon in both houses collecting outstanding
debts, contracting loans at the point of the sword, and laying out the
contents of the common purse at the shop in delicacies suitable to the
occasion.  Abernethys and ham, of course, figured prominently.  The cake
and jam was rather a "scratch lot," as they mostly consisted of
"outsides" and "pot-ends" collected from various sources and amalgamated
into one stock.  But, to compensate for this, Wally had managed to get
round the matron, and by representing to her the delicate nature of the
entertainment, wheedled her out of a pot of "extra special" tea, and a
small jug of cream.  For the rest, there were the relics of the "Cock-
House" commissariat, a cocoa-nut, generously contributed by Fisher
major, and the usual allowance of bread and butter.

The principal delicacy of the feast, however, was contributed by a fair
lady, and to Percy belonged the honour and glory of its acquisition.

On his way from Hall he had run flop into the arms of Mrs Stratton, who
was carrying in her hands a small basket of hothouse grapes.

"I'm awfully sorry, I say, Mrs Stratton," said the culprit, as the
basket and its contents fell to the ground.  "So am I," said Mrs
Stratton.  "There's two bunches out of three not bashed," said Percy, on
his knees picking up the ruin.  "I say, Mrs Stratton, if you'd let me
pay for the other I can give you twopence a week, beginning next week.
I'd rather, you know."

Mrs Stratton laughed pleasantly.  It was always a satisfaction, she
told her husband, to come into collision with a junior.  He always got
the best of it.

"No, thank you, Wheatfield.  But I tell you what you must do."

"All serene, Mrs Stratton," said Percy submissively, preparing himself
for a hundred lines at least.

"One of the bunches is damaged.  You must take it and get your friends
to help you eat it.  Good-bye."

On the whole, therefore, the spread provided for Mr Rollitt was a
respectable one, and not likely to do discredit to his entertainers.

He was installed in the place of honour in the fender, Wally occupying
the seat in the passage, the others ranging themselves on either side of
the board.  They watched their guest's eye somewhat anxiously, to detect
in it any signs of predilection for any particular dish.  But he, poor
man, was too bewildered by the novel experience he was undergoing to
betray any symptoms of appetite.

"What'll you have?" said Percy, presently.

"Well, if you've got a bit of bread and cheese and a drop of something,
I don't mind, thank you kindly."

This was rather a damper; but Wally was equal to the emergency.

"Have an Abernethy--that's what Rollitt's been living on.  You'll like
it.  We keep a stock in our shop."

"Only a penny each," said Ramshaw, explanatorily.

"Better have some jam with it," said Cottle.

"Like some tea?" inquired D'Arcy, who had charge of the pot, beginning
to fill up a mug the size of the slop-basin with the matron's "extra
special."

"The cake's not so bad--there's several lumps not a bit stale," said
Ashby.

"If you like cocoa-nut," said Fisher minor, "my brother's lent us one,
and I'll cut you a chunk."

"And there's some grapes for you, when you're ready," said Percy,
proudly; "a present from a lady."

The awkward thing was that, in their eagerness to see their guest eat,
none of the juniors took anything.  They continued to pile up the good
man's plate till he didn't know where to begin, and fairly bewildered
him by each commending the excellence of his own particular delicacy
"Thank'ee, young gents.  I ain't much of a eater when I'm away from
home; no more ain't my Alf.  But I'll take a snack, anyhow."

Whereupon, to their delight, he commenced an onslaught on the viands
before him, every morsel he ate being followed by eighteen admiring eyes
into his mouth.  He made short work of the Abernethys and cake, tossed
off the tea as if it were a thimbleful, jerked down the hunk of cocoa-
nut, gulped the grapes, and generally gave the spectators an admirable
and comprehensive performance.

They were charmed.  So much so, that out of sheer pleasure they began to
eat too.  The meal, if brief, was a merry one.  Mr Rollitt took a
special fancy to the Abernethys--a choice which of course put the shop-
directors in an ecstasy.  They only reproached themselves that they had
not provided twelve instead of six.

At length, partly because there was nothing left but lukewarm water and
the toughest crusts of the cake, and partly because the guest's appetite
was beginning to flag, the solid portion of the meal came to an end, and
the social began.

After sundry nudgings and whisperings and signals among the juniors,
Wally filled up his cup with warm water and rose to his feet.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I--you know--that is--shut up, young
Cash, unless you want to do it--instead of me--it's this way, you see,
you chaps: I sort of think we ought to drink the health of Rollitt's
governor.  He's a good old sort, and we're backing up old Rollitt.  It
wasn't a very grand spread.  There'd have been some sardines if you'd
come last week; but that greedy pig D'Arcy--"

"Go on; it was _you_ finished them, three in two gulps," protested the
outraged D'Arcy.

"Look here, young D'Arcy," said Wally, seriously, "am I making this
speech, or are you.  If you don't shut up, I'll jolly well make you.--We
hope you've liked it, and don't mind our drinking your health, you know.
It'll be jolly when old Rollitt turns up.  We'd ask you again to-
morrow, you know, only the grub's run short.  Therefore, I have much
pleasure in proposing your health."

The toast was drunk with acclamation, the party joining in "For he's a
jolly good fellow," much to the alarm of the occupants of the
neighbouring studies, who flocked out in the passage to see what the
noise was about.

Wally assured them there was no grub left, so they needn't hang about;
but a good many of them remained all the same, to hear Mr Rollitt's
speech.

"Thank'ee kindly, young masters," began he, with his usual formula; "I
ain't no schollard like my Alf is.  He could talk to you straight.  I'm
sorry he ain't here, gents.  He's bound to be somewheres, and I'm sure
it's no offence meant, his going away.  I likes your style, and I hopes
that young fly-by-night who says my Alf's a thief will tell him so to
his face.  My Alf'll settle him proper.  Them as pays for my Alf's
schooling--which it's two kind ladies, masters, as my missus was kinder
foster-sister to--means to make a gent of my Alf.  But, bless you, he'd
sooner be along of me in the building trade.  Not that my Alf ain't a
schollard, and can't behave himself.  He do behave beautiful to his
mother, does Alf, and ain't nothink of a fine gent at home.  So there, I
tell you straight, and no offence meant, young masters.  I like your
style, I do.  Don't you take on about my Alf bein' a-missing.  He's
bound to be somewheres.  I know'd him do it afore, when things went
contrairy.  But he wasn't fur off, and come back.  On'y don't let 'im
cop hold of that there jumper as says he's a thief, or there'll be a row
in the 'ouse.  Why, my Alf's that straight he wouldn't rob a dog of his
bone, not if he was starving.  That's flat.  So here's to you, young
gents; and if you happen to be passing near Crackstoke way, me and my
missus'll be proud to see yer.  Here's luck!"

The speech was rapturously applauded, not only by the party present, but
by the knot of fellows in the passage, who were taking advantage of the
necessarily open door to join in the proceedings as outsiders.

Wally, however, resented the intrusion, and as soon as the speech of the
evening was ended, ordered one of the tables to be cleared, and placing
his chair upon it, made room for the door to be closed on the intruders,
much to their disappointment.

After the favourable reception of his speech, Mr Rollitt became very
much more at home, and produced a pipe from his pocket, which he
proceeded in the most natural way to light.  His hosts gazed in a
somewhat awe-struck way at the proceeding, but Wally gave the right cue.

"That's right, Mr Rollitt; make yourself at home."

"So I are.  You see, in my days, schooling worn't what it is.  Now this
here school must be a topper."

"It's not bad," said Percy.  "You see there was a jolly row on this term
between the Classics and our lot, and they had to be taken down a bit."

"_Did_ they?" retorted Wally, very indignant; "how many pegs did _you_
come down?  Who had to get our chaps to come and give them a leg-up
every other day?"

"Who swindled at Elections and got licked on the hands, eh!"

"Who got their football bagged, and couldn't get it back?"

"Who got kicked out of the front row at the Rendlesham match?"

"'Armony, gents, 'armony," said Mr Rollitt, waving his pipe
encouragingly.

The rebuke was opportune.  It wasn't fair to the guest to squabble
before him.

"We've stashed all that," said Percy, presently; "they got civil to us,
so we got civil to them, and we're all in the shop together.  And we're
all backing up old Rollitt, ain't we, you chaps, and we're going down in
a lump for the clubs; and we all shelled out for this do; so it's all
right now.  See?"

Mr Rollitt thought he did, and nodded amiably.  "You see, it's not much
larks unless we're all in it.  We went up Hawk's Pike, you know."

"No," said Mr Rollitt.  "How did that happen?"

"Well, it was this way, you see," began Percy, taking up, as was his
wont, the narrative at a remote period.  "After those Classic cads--k-i-
d-s, you know, had--(Shut up, Wally, I said k-i-d-s; can't you spell?)
had caved in."

"Who caved in!" expostulated the Classics.

"Well, after Stratton's, you know, when we started the shop--I say,
you'll have to come and see the shop--well--it was before that, though;
it was when the row began about Corder not being stuck in--that was
before that, you know--Brinkman screwed his foot, so there was a man
short for the team, so Clapperton--that's our prefect, you know; he's
all right now, but he--hullo, I say, he's gone asleep!"

Sure enough Mr Rollitt, weary with his long journey, with the
excitement of the day, and with the excellence of the tea, had dozed off
comfortably, on his chair in the fender, with his pipe in his mouth.

Percy felt it unnecessary to pursue his lucid narrative, and the nine
hosts sat watching their man as his head nodded forward, and the urgent
necessity for a snore presently rendered the position of the pipe no
longer tenable.

It was a triumph!  No man could have gone off like that unless he had
felt thoroughly comfortable.  The railway rug was again produced and
laid over his knees, and his feet were gently lifted on the hassock, and
a pillow was neatly inserted at the back of the chair; and all looked so
snug, and the hospitable juniors were so pleased with the result, that
they had the vanity to let the door stand open, so that all who passed
by might see how comfortable they could make a guest when they liked.

To heighten the effect, they decided to do their preparation on the
spot, and so not only impress the sleeper when he awoke, but advertise
themselves to the outside world as boys who by no means neglected the
serious side of school life for its lighter functions.

It must be owned that next day when the work thus accomplished was
subjected to the microscopic test of the master's eyes, it was not any
better--some said it was even worse--than usual.  That had nothing to do
with the present.

Wally, who put his chair out again in the passage, had most of his time
occupied in making pantomimic appeals for silence from passers-by, to
whom he pointed out the figure of the sleeping Mr Rollitt as a
justification.  The others, debarred from speech (for it was considered
that even a whisper might awaken the sleeper, although the violent
process of tucking him up just now had failed to do so), were reduced to
communication with one another in writing, which took up so much time
and paper that very little of either was left for lessons.

At last, after half an hour's suspense, the clang of the house-bell for
call-over broke the spell.  Mr Rollitt grunted and yawned and opened
his eyes, looked about for his pipe, inspected the rug on his knees,
took his, feet off the hassock, and finally realised where he was.

"I was nigh 'andy asleep that time," said he, rummaging in his pocket
for a lucifer.

"It's all right; we were doing our prep, you know.  Now we've got to be
called over.  If you stick here, we'll be back in a jiffy, and then
we'll take you to see the shop," said Wally.

"Thank'ee kindly," said the guest; "don't put yourselves about for me.
Take your time, young gents."

"We shan't be long.  I say, wait for us, won't you?  Don't you go out
with any other chaps.  They ain't in it, you know."

"I ain't a-going with nobody, don't you make no mistake," was the
visitor's satisfactory assurance.

They had some thoughts about locking him in, to make sure of him, but
decided to trust his parole, and trooped down impatiently to call-over,
binding one another to assemble at the shop immediately afterwards,
whither Wally and Percy were to conduct their guest.

To the satisfaction of these young gentlemen, the bird was safely in his
cage when they returned, dimly visible through the smoke, looking at the
pictures in the illustrated paper.  He meekly obeyed their summons,
relieving their embarrassment somewhat by putting his pipe away in his
pocket as he rose.

"Where's the rest of the pals?" asked he.

"Down at the shop.  It's not the regular hour, you know.  But we can get
in with the key.  Come along, Mr Rollitt."

The old Watch-Tower, which, as the reader knows, is the oldest remaining
portion of Fellsgarth, was rather an imposing-looking edifice for so
mundane an establishment as the School shop.  The shop, indeed, occupied
only a small apartment on the ground floor, which had previously been
used as a porter's lodge, the remainder of the structure, including the
disused belfry and watch-turret, being abandoned to the owls and ghosts
and ivy, which accorded best with the ancient traditions of the place.

Mr Rollitt, whose profession sharpened his observation for specimens of
bygone achievements in his own line of business, noted the venerable
exterior before him with admiration.

"That there bit of bricks and mortar," said he, "warn't built
yesterday."

"Oh, it's millions of years old," said Wally; "but our shop, you know,
has only just been started."

"They don't make copin's like them to-day," repeated Mr Rollitt.

"We go in for good grub cheap," said Percy; "no shoe-leather, like Bob
used to sell."

"I reckon them top courses is a hundred year after this here bottom
part.  Not much jerry there neither."

"We boss it among us, you know," said Wally, "and take turns to serve.
We don't get a bad profit either."

Here they were joined by the rest of the party.  But to their
disappointment Mr Rollitt's interest in the shop was small compared
with that he showed in the lay of the bricks, the run of the beams, and
the hardness of the mortar.

"They knowed their way about, straight, those days," said he, picking
away between two of the bricks with his nail.

"Try one of our `Rollitt's particular,'" pleaded D'Arcy, in the hope
that this invitation at least would interest him.

But no.  He went "nosing round," taking no notice of the stores, and
putting off all invitations with a "Thank'ee kindly, not to-day."

It was a sore blow to his hosts.  After what they had done for him,
after the way they had nursed him all day, after the tea they had given
him, and the pipes he had smoked in their study!  They could have thrown
him overboard in their mortification.  But the dread lest some one else,
some of the middle-boys, for instance, should get hold of him and "run"
him, decided them to pocket their feelings and back him up still.

"No offence, young gents," said he presently; "but if you've a ladder
'andy, I'd like to take a look up there."

"Oh, there's nothing up there--only bats and owls," said Wally, "and
there's no ladder."

But Mr Rollitt pointed out in a corner, behind the back of the shop,
some protruding bits of stone let into the brick, evidently with a view
to form a rude ladder or stair to the chambers above.

This promised well.  An exploration of the Watch-tower offered some
little compensation for the slight put on their shop.

"I never saw that before," said Wally.  "I vote we go up."

Mr Rollitt led the way with all the agility of a practical hodman.  The
steps ended with a trap-door in the ceiling, which he pushed up before
him.

"Mind how you go, young gents," said he to his followers; "one at a time
on them stones."

The trap-door opened into a sort of passage, at the end of which was a
narrow brick corkscrew staircase.

It was too dark to do anything but feel their way up; Mr Rollitt
leading, and testing every step as he went along.

"Why," said Wally suddenly, and with a touch of alarm in his voice, as
they were halting a moment to allow Mr Rollitt to inspect with the end
of a lucifer one of the loophole windows, "why, look up there--there's a
light!"

They looked.  And there, struggling apparently from under a door which
closed the head of the stairs, came a streak of light.

"I say--it's ghosts," said Fisher minor.  "Let's go back."

"More likely it's my Alf," said Mr Rollitt.  "I know'd he was
somewheres not fur off."

He went up, followed at a more respectful distance than before by the
boys, and pushed open the door.

They heard the sound of an exclamation within, and a noise as of some
one starting to his feet.  Next moment, as the light streamed down the
staircase, they heard a familiar voice say--

"Father!"

"That's me, Alf, my boy; I know'd you was somewheres 'andy."

"I say," said Wally, in an excited whisper to his followers, "we'd best
cut back, you chaps.  They don't want us up there."

The delicate suggestion was appreciated by the party, who forthwith made
a precipitate retreat.

"We as good as found him, that's one thing, and nobody else was in it,"
said Percy triumphantly.

"Rather not.  Keep it mum.  Let's go and light the fire in his room, and
have some grub ready for him.  Good old Rollitt, I'm jolly glad he's
turned up!"

"That's how he got the Abernethys," said D'Arcy.  "Jolly honest to pay
for them."

"You don't suppose anybody would collar things out of the shop and not
pay for them, you lout, do you?"

Whereat, leaving the door on the latch, they marched arm in arm across
the School Green kicking every junior they met, and mystifying everybody
by whistling at the top of their voices, "See the conquering hero
comes."



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

THE FINAL KICK.

Rollitt's return to Fellsgarth was almost as mysterious as his
disappearance.  He answered to his name at call-over next morning as if
he had never missed a day this term.  And as Dr Ringwood and the other
masters were present, and made no remark, it was generally concluded
that the truant had turned up over-night, and had had it out with the
authorities before bedtime.

Mr Rollitt, Senior, had departed.  He had looked into Wally's study
after the owner and his crew were in bed to get his bag, and had been
driven down in the doctor's fly to Penchurch.

It was also understood that most of the Classic seniors had dropped into
Rollitt's study early that morning.  To some he had said, "Get out";
with others he had shaken hands.  The captain had evidently been among
the latter; as, on the notice board that morning, among the names of the
fifteen who were to play the first match for the new clubs on Saturday
against Penchurch, was that of Rollitt.  The excitement caused by this
discovery almost put into the shade for the time the equally remarkable
fact that Clapperton and Brinkman were included in the same team.

Where Rollitt had been, and what he had been doing, remained a mystery.
It was, of coarse, out of the question to ask him.  Conjecture was rife,
and was greatly assisted by the juniors, who hazarded all sorts of
plausible explanations for the general benefit.

"Think he's been to Land's End?" said Wally.  "I hear you can do it in a
week--sharp walking."

"You can get to America in that time," said Lickford.

"Yes--he does seem to have rather a twang on him.  Perhaps that's where
he's been to," remarked D'Arcy.

"Penny bank coal-mine's only fifty miles away," said Percy.  "It runs
under the sea ever so far.  I should say it was a ripping place to hide
in."

From which and other similar remarks it was concluded that the juniors
had a much better notion as to where Rollitt had been than they chose to
admit.

They eagerly embraced the first opportunity of going to the shop, and
investigating the scene of the mystery for themselves.  They carefully
locked the outer door against possible intruders, and then in Indian
file ascended the stone ladder, and after it the corkscrew staircase.

The room in which they found themselves was pretty much as Rollitt had
left it.  It had evidently been made use of by a former lodge-keeper as
a dwelling-room, for there was a ragged paper on the wall, and an
attempt here and there to board over dangerous holes in the floor.
Besides which there was a rude shutter to the tiny window, by means of
which no doubt Rollitt had succeeded in concealing his presence at
night.  The remains of a wood fire were on the hearth, and a candle-end
showed (what they already knew) that the hermit did not spend all his
evenings in darkness.

More than this, in one corner still lay some of the wraps which he had
evidently used to extemporise a bed.  And an empty box on end in the
window convinced them he had sat down during part of his residence.
There was also a leaf of exercise paper and a Horace lying on the floor,
which evidently had not been brought there by the owls.  Altogether, as
they looked round, they concluded that, but for the cold, he might have
had worse quarters during his temporary exile.

But the discovery that delighted them most was a fragment of a newspaper
in which were wrapped the not yet exhausted end of a ham, and half a
biscuit!

Over these relics they dwelt with quite an affectionate interest, till
somebody said--

"What did he have to drink?  He didn't take any of our ginger-beer, and
there's no water here."

"Why, you duffer, of course he could get out any time he liked.  It's
only a latch on the door; any one can open it from inside.  He could
easily get down to the river in the night, and have a tub, and fetch up
some water."

They decided that in future the shop committee, except when Mr and Mrs
Stratton were present, should meet nowhere but in "Rollitt's chamber,"
as they forthwith named the room, and proceeded to dedicate it to that
use there and then.

"Do you know," said Wally, "that after we pay back Mr Stratton what he
lent us to start with, there'll be a clear £5 to give to the clubs out
of the profits?"

"Not bad," said Percy.  "They ought to put us in the first fifteen for
that."

"Never mind," said D'Arcy; "they've got a jolly hot fifteen for
Saturday, Rollitt and all of 'em.  We ought to put the Penchurch chaps
to bed for once, I fancy."

This was the general impression throughout the School; and, as if to
make up for the abstinence of the past few weeks, the fervour of the
athletic set waxed high as the eventful day drew near.  Yorke had out
his men once or twice, practising kicks, and selecting where in the
field each player could work to best advantage.

Rollitt, of course, did not attend these practices; but Clapperton and
Brinkman did, and soon lost the embarrassment with which they first
faced their old rivals and enemies.  Corder was down too; dreadfully
afraid lest by _some_ mishap he should discredit himself, and so be
knocked out of his coveted place in the team.  Mr Stratton was on the
spot also, advising and admonishing--as no one knew better how to do.
Even the doctor showed his interest in the new departure of the clubs by
coming down too, and by giving directions to reserve seats in the
pavilion for a party of his friends.

The only unenthusiastic person, except Rollitt, was Dangle.  He tried at
first to brazen it out, and came down to the field with a sneer on his
face to look, so he said, "at the good boys exercising themselves."  But
the juniors soon routed him out of that attitude.

"Booh, hoo!  Rollitt's coming!  Wants to hear you call him a thief.
Run--he'll catch you!  Put it on, well run, Dangle, you've missed him
this time.  Coast's clear, now; you can come back.  We'll protect you,"
and so on.

These attentions made Dangle's visits to the field less frequent.  In
school, he kept the swagger up still longer.

"So," said he one day to Clapperton, "I thought you didn't approve of
cutting fellows dead?"

"No more I do."

"Why do you do it, then?"

"Have you apologised to Rollitt?"

"No."

"Has Rollitt thrashed you?"

"No."

"When one or the other has happened, I shall be delighted to shake
hands," said Clapperton.

The alternative was a dismal one, but Dangle saw no third way.  Which
course was least to be desired he could not for the life of him decide.
A fight with Rollitt he knew would end disastrously.  But to apologise--
and in public!

The reader has already had too football matches in the course of this
story.  He shall not be wearied with a third.

Suffice it to say the Penchurch men--men, not boys--presented themselves
on the appointed day, and all Fellsgarth turned out to see the battle.

Fisher minor scored one more triumph by bringing Rollitt up to the
scratch, and so completing as sound and taut a team as Yorke had ever
led on to victory.

Mrs Stratton was there, wearing the School colours round her hat; and
the doctor was there with his field-glasses, pointing out the heroes of
the School to his distinguished visitors.

This time, by much squeezing and mutual accommodation, the oak tree was
made to hold nine persons.  Who those nine were none could guess, unless
indeed they happened to be standing within a hundred yards of the spot
without cotton-wool in their ears.

From the first it went hard with the Penchurch men.  The School had
never played up better.  The scrimmages were beautifully packed, and the
quarter and half-backs were never off the spot.  Only when, above the
crowd, Rollitt's head was seen to be at work, and it was apparent he had
waked up for a time, was there any risk of confusion.  But Yorke's "Play
on Rollitt!" generally pulled the scrimmage together again, and warned
friend and (after a time) foe what to expect.

There was no holding Rollitt back when he once made up his mind to get
the ball through; and no stopping him when once he got fairly started on
a run.  Twice before half-time and once after he scored a touch-down.
Twice Yorke did the same, and once Clapperton.

Corder discovered that a fellow does not always score, and yet may play
a steady, useful game.  He was disappointed that it was only left him to
do the latter; and he set himself down as a failure.  But Mr Stratton
put him on his feet wonderfully at the end.

"You've improved, Corder.  You never played as well."

The others worked well, and contributed to the great result, and
perhaps, better still, grudged no one his greater glory.  It was
Fellsgarth that was playing, not Fullerton, Ranger, Brinkman, Fisher
major, or anybody else.

The final goal was Clapperton's.  It was an historic event.  For the
first time in the match the Penchurch men had worked the ball up into
the boys' quarters, and fears were being entertained lest, after all,
they would save their "duck."  The half-backs and quarter-backs of the
School were squeezed in, all of a lump, between touch and goal; and
those who looked on noticed with alarm that, as matters now stood, an
easy drop-kick from any of the enemy's forwards might capture the goal.

Rollitt was the first to put an end to this dangerous state of things.
He bore down the scrimmage after his usual fashion, and succeeded, as he
broke through, in getting the ball into his hands.  But for once he
could get no further.  Twenty hands seized him and carried him to the
ground, but not before he had sent back the ball into Fisher's hands.

"Back up now--hard and fast!" cried Yorke.

Never was order more beautifully carried out, Fisher minor held the
leather long enough to pass it to Brinkman.  Brinkman staggered on a
yard or two and slipped it back to Denton.  Denton made a yard or two
more and passed it to Corder.  Corder fell back with it into the arms of
Ranger.  Ranger let Corder drop, but captured the ball, and with one of
his lightning swoops carried it out of the ruck for twenty yards, when,
as he fell, Yorke came up and captured it.  Yorke, alas, was cut short
in his career before he had gone ten yards, but Clapperton was there to
take it.  Away he went, shaking off the nearest of his assailants and
distancing others, till he too fell gloriously, with his body in play,
and his hands in touch, thirty yards from the enemy's lines.  The
serried ranks formed up on either side.  Clapperton, as he stood, ball
in hand, ready to throw in, passed his eye along the line of his
friends, and stopped short of Yorke.  Yorke understood.  He caught the
ball, and quick as thought, returned it to Clapperton, who, swooping
round behind the line, got clear with it once more, and crossing the
field, curving in all the way, carried into the enemy's lines at their
far corner, whence with a wide sweep he brought it round right behind
their posts, a beautiful climax to a beautiful piece of co-operative
play.

As Mr Stratton said, nothing all that term had been more hopeful of the
new spirit of mutual confidence and support in the School than this
triumphant rally.

But the goal was yet to be kicked.  To Yorke, of course, belonged the
honour.

But Yorke, to every one's surprise, stood out.

"No," said he.  "It's Clapperton's goal; he shall kick it."

So Fellsgarth, perhaps for the first and only time in its records, stood
by and witnessed the phenomenon of its captain carrying out the ball and
placing it for the vice-captain to kick.

It needed all Clapperton's nerve to save him from flurry and failure
even over an easy task like this.  But he pulled himself together and
kicked the goal.

And with that kick he sent flying into the air the last remnant of the
bad blood and jealousy which had marred the term and all but wrecked the
good old School.

Here let us say good-bye--perhaps not for good.  For Yorke and Rollitt,
and Clapperton and Fisher, and all of them, are still alive and kicking.

Rollitt, to the general regret, but to his own satisfaction, left
Fellsgarth at the end of the term for the more congenial course of a
school of engineering.  Before he left he invited Fisher minor to tea in
his room, and alarmed that young gentleman by sitting for a whole hour
without uttering a word.  At length, when the guest had to leave, he
said--

"Thanks, Fisher minor.  Thank those fellows of yours.  Tell Yorke the
money that bought the boat was what I had been saving for something
else.  I'll write to you.  Get out, now."

That was the last of Rollitt.

Dangle never made up his mind either to apologise or take a thrashing.
He never met Rollitt after the return of the latter.  When breaking-up
day came, he got an excuse to go home earlier than the general crowd;
and when School reassembled in January it was known he had left
Fellsgarth for good.

The two events of the breaking-up "Hall" were--first the announcement by
the doctor that, at his request, Yorke would stay on another term at
Fellsgarth; secondly, the presentation of a purse containing five pounds
to the School clubs by the nine juniors, as the profits for the term on
the business of the School shop.

Which of these two events produced the more terrific cheers the reader
must take upon himself to decide.

An hour later, Messrs. Wally, D'Arcy, Ashby, Fisher minor, Percy,
Cottle, Lickford, Ramshaw, and Cash, limited, walked arm in arm across
the Green, after a farewell call on Mrs Stratton, on their way to the
School omnibus, which waited at the Watch-Tower.  Their progress was
temporarily interrupted by the sudden bolt of Fisher minor in pursuit of
a lank, cadaverous figure, wearing the Modern colours, who was strolling
innocently off in the direction of Mr Forder's house.

"The young un's got 'em again," said Wally.  "Here, come back, young
Fisher minor, can't you?  We shan't wait."

Fisher minor pulled up.  He looked wistfully first at the retreating
figure in the distance, then at his eight friends.  With a sigh he
decided on the latter; and for that term, at least, finally abandoned
the quest of his unlucky half-crown.

It took some little time to arrange matters on the omnibus, as one or
two innocent middle-boys had had the audacity to occupy the box-seat and
the row behind, and had to be cajoled or pulled down.  How could any one
dare, when those two seats just held nine, to imagine that they were not
sacred property?

"That's better," said Wally, when at last the party were safely up, with
two rugs over their eighteen knees, and a gross of brandy-balls
circulating for the common comfort.  "Touch 'em up, driver.  Give 'em
their heads!  I tell you what, you chaps, this has been rather a slow
half.  I vote we have some larks next term."

"Rather!" chimed in the chorus.

THE END.





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