Debits and Credits, by Rudyard Kipling

The United Idolaters

HIS name was Brownell and his reign was brief. He came from the Central Anglican Scholastic Agency, a soured, clever, reddish man picked up by the Head at the very last moment of the summer holidays in default of Macrea (of Macrea’s House) who wired from Switzerland that he had smashed a knee mountaineering, and would not be available that term.

Looking back at the affair, one sees that the Head should have warned Mr. Brownell of the College’s outstanding peculiarity, instead of leaving him to discover it for himself the first day of the term, when he went for a walk to the beach, and saw ‘Potiphar’ Mullins, Head of Games, smoking without conceal on the sands. ‘Pot,’ having the whole of the Autumn Football challenges, acceptances, and Fifteen reconstructions to work out, did not at first comprehend Mr. Brownell’s shrill cry of: ‘You’re smoking! You’re smoking, sir!’ but he removed his pipe, and answered, placably enough: ‘The Army Class is allowed to smoke, sir.’

Mr. Brownell replied: ‘Preposterous!’

Pot, seeing that this new person was uninformed, suggested that he should refer to the Head.

‘You may be sure I shall — sure I shall, sir! Then we shall see!’

Mr. Brownell and his umbrella scudded off, and Pot returned to his match-plannings. Anon, he observed, much as the Almighty might observe black-beetles, two small figures coming over the Pebble-ridge a few hundred yards to his right. They were a Major and his Minor, the latter a new boy and, as such, entitled to his brother’s countenance for exactly three days — after which he would fend for himself. Pot waited till they were well out on the great stretch of mother-o’pearl sands; then caused his ground-ash to describe a magnificent whirl of command in the air.

‘Come on,’ said the Major. ‘Run!’

‘What for?’ said the Minor, who had noticed nothing.

‘‘Cause we’re wanted. Leg it!’

‘Oh, I can do that,’ the Minor replied and, at the end of the sprint, fetched up a couple of yards ahead of his brother, and much less winded.

‘Your Minor?’ said Pot, looking over them, seawards.

‘Yes, Mullins,’ the Major replied.

‘All right. Cut along!’ They cut on the word.

‘Hi! Fludd Major! Come back!’

Back fled the elder.

‘Your wind’s bad. Too fat. You grunt like a pig. ‘Mustn’t do it! Understand? Go away!’

‘What was all that for?’ the Minor asked on the Major’s return.

‘To see if we could run, you fool!’

‘Well, I ran faster than you, anyhow,’ was the scandalous retort.

‘Look here, Har–Minor, if you go on talking like this, you’ll get yourself kicked all round Coll. An’ you mustn’t stand like you did when a Prefect’s talkin’ to you.’

The Minor’s eyes opened with awe. ‘I thought it was only one of the masters,’ said he.

‘Masters! It was Mullins–Head o’ Games. You are a putrid young ass!’

By what seemed pure chance, Mr. Brownell ran into the School Chaplain, the Reverend John Gillett, beating up against the soft September rain that no native ever troubled to wear a coat for.

‘I was trying to catch you after lunch,’ the latter began. ‘I wanted to show you our objects of local interest.’

‘Thank you! I’ve seen all I want,’ Mr. Brownell answered., Gillett, is there anything about me which suggests the Congenital Dupe?’

‘It’s early to say, yet,’ the Chaplain answered. ‘Who’ve you been meeting?’

‘A youth called Mullets, I believe.’ And, indeed, there was Potiphar, ground-ash, pipe, and all, quarter-decking serenely below the Pebbleridge.

‘Oh! I see. Old Pot — our Head of Games.’

‘He was smoking. He’s smoking now! Before those two little boys, too!’ Mr. Brownell panted. ‘He had the audacity to tell me that —’

‘Yes,’ the Reverend John cut in. ‘The Army Class is allowed to smoke — not in their studies, of course, but within limits, out of doors. You see, we have to compete against the Crammers’ establishments, where smoking’s usual.’

This was true! Of the only school in England was this the cold truth, and for the reason given, in that unprogressive age.

‘Good Heavens!’ said Mr. Brownell to the gulls and the gray sea. ‘And I was never warned!’

‘The Head is a little forgetful. I ought to have — But it’s all right,’ the Chaplain added soothingly. ‘Pot won’t-er-give you away.’

Mr. Brownell, who knew what smoking led to, testified out of his twelve years’ experience of what he called the Animal Boy. He left little unexplored or unexplained.

‘There may be something in what you say,’ the Reverend John assented. ‘But as a matter of fact, their actual smoking doesn’t amount to much. They talk a great deal about their brands of tobacco. Practically, it makes them rather keen on putting down smoking among the juniors — as an encroachment on their privilege, you see. They lick ’em twice as hard for it as we’d dare to.’

‘Lick!’ Mr. Brownell cried. ‘One expels! One expels! I know the end of these practices.’ He told his companion, in detail, with anecdotes and inferences, a great deal more about the Animal Boy.

‘Ah!’ said the Reverend John to himself. ‘You’ll leave at the end of the term; but you’ll have a deuce of a time first.’ Aloud: ‘We-ell, I suppose no one can be sure of any school’s tendency at any given moment, but, personally, I should incline to believe that we’re reasonably free from the — er — monastic microbes of — er — older institutions.’

‘But a school’s a school. You can’t get out of that! It’s preposterous! You must admit that,’ Mr. Brownell insisted.

They were within hail of Pot by now, and the Reverend John asked him how Affairs of State stood.

‘All right, thank you, sir. How are you, sir?’

‘Loungin’ round and sufferin’, my son. What about the dates of the Exeter and Tiverton matches?’

‘As late in the term as we can get ’em, don’t you think, sir?’

‘Quite! Specially Blundell’s. They’re our dearest foe,’ he explained to the frozen Mr. Brownell. ‘Aren’t we rather light in the scrum just now, Mullins?’

‘‘Fraid so, sir: but Packman’s playin’ forward this term.’

‘At last!’ cried the Reverend John. (Packman was Pot’s second-incommand, who considered himself a heaven-born half-back, but Pot had been working on him diplomatically. ‘He’ll be a pillar, at any rate. Lend me one of your fuzees, please. I’ve only got matches.’

Mr. Brownell was unused to this sort of talk. ‘A bad beginning to a bad business,’ he muttered as they returned to College.

Pot finished out his meditations; from time to time rubbing up the gloss on his new seven-and-sixpenny silver-mounted, rather hot, myall-wood pipe, with its very thin crust in the bowl.

As the Studies brought back brackets and pictures for their walls, so did they bring odds and ends of speech — theatre, opera, and music-hall gags — from the great holiday world; some of which stuck for a term, and others were discarded. Number Five was unpacking, when Dick Four (King’s House) of the red nose and dramatic instincts, who with Pussy and Tertius inhabited the study below, loafed up and asked them ‘how their symptoms seemed to segashuate.’ They said nothing at the time, for they knew Dick had a giddy uncle who took him to the Pavilion and the Cri, and all would be explained later. But, before they met again, Beetle came across two fags at war in a box-room, one of whom cried to the other ‘Turn me loose, or I’ll knock the natal stuffin’ out of you.’ Beetle demanded why he, being offal, presumed to use this strange speech. The fag said it came out of a new book about rabbits and foxes and turtles and niggers, which was in his locker. (Uncle Remus was a popular holiday gift-book in Shotover’s year: when Cetewayo lived in the Melbury Road, Arabi Pasha in Egypt, and Spofforth on the Oval.) Beetle had it out and read for some time, standing by the window, ere he carried it off to Number Five and began at once to give a wonderful story of a Tar Baby. Stalky tore it from him because he sputtered incoherently; McTurk, for the same cause, wrenching it from Stalky. There was no prep that night. The book was amazing, and full of quotations that one could hurl like javelins. When they came down to prayers, Stalky, to show he was abreast of the latest movement, pounded on the door of Dick Four’s study shouting a couplet that pleased him:

‘Ti-yi! Tungalee!

I eat um pea! I pick um pea!’

Upon which Dick Four, hornpiping and squinting, and not at all unlike a bull-frog, came out and answered from the bottom of his belly, whence he could produce incredible noises

‘Ingle-go-jang, my joy, my joy!

Ingle-go-jang, my joy!

I’m right at home, my joy, my joy! —’

The chants seemed to answer the ends of their being created for the moment. They all sang them the whole way up the corridor, and, after prayers, bore the burdens dispersedly to their several dormitories, where they found many who knew the book of the words, but who, boylike, had waited for a lead ere giving tongue. In a short time the College was as severely infected with Uncle Remus as it had been with Pinafore and Patience. King realised it specially because he was running Macrea’s House in addition to his own and, Dick Four said, was telling his new charges what he thought of his ‘esteemed colleague’s’ methods of House-control.

The Reverend John was talking to the Head in the tatter’s study, perhaps a fortnight later.

‘If you’d only wired me,’ he said. ‘I could have dug up something that might have tided us over. This man’s dangerous.’

‘Mea culpa!’ the Head replied. ‘I had so much on hand. Our Governing Council alone — But what do We make of him?’

‘Trust Youth! We call him “Mister.”

‘“Mister Brownell”?’

‘Just “Mister.” It took Us three days to plumb his soul.’

‘And he doesn’t approve of Our institutions? You say he is On the Track — eh? He suspects the worst?’

The School Chaplain nodded.

‘We-ell. I should say that that was the one tendency we had not developed. Setting aside we haven’t even a curtain in a dormitory, let alone a lock to any form-room door — there has to be tradition in these things.’

‘So I believe. So, indeed, one knows. And —‘tisn’t as if I ever preached on personal purity either.’

The Head laughed. ‘No, or you’d join Brownell at term-end. By the way, what’s this new line of Patristic discourse you’re giving us in church? I found myself listening to some of it last Sunday.’

‘Oh! My early Christianity sermons? I bought a dozen ready made in Town just before I came down. Some one who knows his Gibbon must have done ’em. Aren’t they good?’ The Reverend John, who was no hand at written work, beamed self-approvingly. There was a knock and Pot entered.

The weather had defeated him, at last. All footer-grounds, he reported, were unplayable, and must be rested. His idea, to keep things going, was Big and Little Side Paper-chases thrice a week. For the juniors, a shortish course on the Burrows, which he intended to oversee personally the first few times, while Packman lunged Big Side across the inland and upland ploughs, for proper sweats. There was some question of bounds that he asked authority to vary; and, would the Head please say which afternoons would interfere least with the Army Class, Extra Tuition.

As to bounds, the Head left those, as usual, entirely to Pot. The Reverend John volunteered to shift one of his extra-Tu classes from four to five p.m. till after prayers — nine to ten. The whole question was settled in five minutes.

‘We hate paper-chases, don’t we, Pot?’ the Headmaster asked as the Head of Games rose.

‘Yes, sir, but it keeps ’em in training. Good night, sir.’

‘To go back —’ drawled the Head when the door was well shut. ‘No-o. I do not think so! . . . Ye-es! He’ll leave at the end of the term . . . A-aah! How does it go? “Don’t ‘spute wid de squinch-owl. Jam de shovel in de fier.” Have you come across that extraordinary book, by the way?’

‘Oh, yes. We’ve got it badly too. It has some sort of elemental appeal, I suppose.’

Here Mr. King came in with a neat little scheme for the reorganisation of certain details in Macrea’s House, where he had detected reprehensible laxities. The Head sighed. The Reverend John only heard the beginnings of it. Then he slid out softly. He remembered he had not written to Macrea for quite a long time.

The first Big Side Paper-chase, in blinding wet, was as vile as even the groaning and bemired Beetle had prophesied. But Dick Four had managed to run his own line when it skirted Bideford, and turned up at the Lavatories half an hour late cherishing a movable tumour beneath his sweater.

‘Ingle-go-jang!’ he chanted, and slipped out a warm but coy land-tortoise.

‘My Sacred Hat!’ cried Stalky. ‘Brer Terrapin! Where you catchee? What you makee-do aveck?’

This was Stalky’s notion of how they talked in Uncle Remus; and he spake no other tongue for weeks.

‘I don’t know yet; but I had to get him. ‘Man with a barrow full of ’em in Bridge Street. ‘Gave me my choice for a bob. Leave him alone, you owl! He won’t swim where you’ve been washing your filthy self! “I’m right at home, my joy, my joy.”’ Dick’s nose shone like Bardolph’s as he bubbled in the bath.

Just before tea-time, he,’ Pussy,’ and Tertius broke in upon Number Five, processionally, singing:

‘Ingle-go-jang, my joy, my joy!

Ingle-go-jang, my joy!

I’m right at home, my joy, my joy!

Ingle-go-jang, my joy.’

Brer Terrapin, painted or and sable — King’s House-colours — swung by a neatly contrived belly-band from the end of a broken jumping-pole. They thought rather well of taking him in to tea. They called at one or two studies on the way, and were warmly welcomed; but when they reached the still shut doors of the dining-hall (Richards, ex-Petty Officer, R.N., was always unpunctual — but they needn’t have called him ‘Stinking Jim ‘) the whole school shouted approval. After the meal, Brer Terrapin was borne the round of the form-rooms from Number One to Number Twelve, in an unbroken roar of homage.

‘To-morrow,’ Dick Four announced, ‘we’ll sacrifice to him. Fags in blazin’ paper-baskets!’ and with thundering ‘Ingle-go jangs’ the Idol retired to its shrine.

It had been a satisfactory performance. Little Hartopp, surprised labelling ‘rocks’ in Number Twelve, which held the Natural History Museum, had laughed consumedly; and the Reverend John, just before prep, complimented Dick that he had not a single dissenter to his following. In this respect the affair was an advance on Byzantium and Alexandria which, of course, were torn by rival sects led by militant Bishops or zealous heathen. Vide, (Beetle,) Hypatia, and (if Dick Four ever listened, instead of privily swotting up his Euclid, in Church) the Reverend John’s own sermons. Mr. King, who had heard the noise but had not appeared, made no comment till dinner, when he told the Common Room ceiling that he entertained the lowest opinion of Uncle Remus’s buffoonery, but opined that it might interest certain types of intellect. Little Hartopp, School Librarian, who had, by special request, laid in an extra copy of the book, differed acridly. He had, he said, heard or overheard every salient line of Uncle Remus quoted, appositely too, by boys whom he would not have credited with intellectual interests. Mr. King repeated that he was wearied by the senseless and childish repetitions of immature minds. He recalled the Patience epidemic. Mr. Prout did not care for Uncle Remus — the dialect put him off — but he thought the Houses were getting a bit out of hand. There was nothing one could lay hold of, of course —‘As yet,’ Mr. Brownell interjected darkly. ‘But this larking about in form-rooms,’ he added, had potentialities which, if he knew anything of the Animal Boy, would develop — or had developed.’

‘I shouldn’t wonder,’ said the Reverend John. ‘This is the first time to my knowledge that Stalky has ever played second-fiddle to any one. Brer Terrapin was entirely Dick Four’s notion. By the way, he was painted your House-colours, King.’

‘Was he?’ said King artlessly. ‘I have always held that our Dickson Quartus had the rudiments of imagination. We will look into it — look into it.’

‘In our loathsome calling, more things are done by judicious letting alone than by any other,’ the Reverend John grunted.

‘I can’t subscribe to that,’ said Mr. Prout. ‘You haven’t a House,’ and for once Mr. King backed Prout.

‘Thank Heaven I haven’t! Or I should be like you two. Leave ’em alone! Leave ’em alone! Haven’t you ever seen puppies fighting over a slipper for hours?’

‘Yes, but Gillett admits that Dickson Quartus was the only begetter of this manifestation. I wasn’t aware that the — er — Testacean had been tricked out in my colours,’ said King.

And at that very hour, Number Five Study —‘prep’ thrown to the winds — were toiling inspiredly at a Tar Baby made up of Beetle’s sweater, and half-a-dozen lavatory-towels; a condemned cretonne curtain and, ditto, baize table-cloth for ‘natal stuffin’’; an ancient, but air-tight puntabout-ball for the head; all three play-box ropes for bindings; and most of Richards’ weekly blacking-allowance for Prout’s House’s boots, to give tone to the whole.

‘Gummy!’ said Beetle when their curtain-pole had been taken down and Tar Baby hitched to the end of it by a loop in its voluptuous back. ‘It looks pretty average indecent, somehow.’

‘You can use it this way, too,’ Turkey demonstrated, handling the curtain-pole like a flail ‘Now, shove it in the fireplace to dry an’ we’ll wash up.’

‘But — but,’ said Stalky, fascinated by the unspeakable front and behind of the black and bulging horror. ‘How come he lookee so hellish?’

‘Dead easy! If you do anything with your whole heart, Ruskin says, you always pull off something dam’-fine. Brer Terrapin’s only a natural animal; but Tar Baby’s Art,’ McTurk explained.

‘I see! “If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line.” Well, Tar Baby’s the filthiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,’ Stalky concluded. ‘King’ll be rabid.’

The United Idolaters set forth, side by side, at five o’clock next afternoon; Brer Terrapin, wide awake, and swimming hard into nothing; Tar Baby lurching from side to side with a lascivious abandon that made Foxy, the School Sergeant, taking defaulters’ drill in the Corridor, squawk like an outraged hen. And when they ceremoniously saluted each other, like aristocratic heads on revolutionary pikes, it beat the previous day’s performance out of sight and mind. The very fags, offered up, till the bottoms of the paper-baskets carried away, as heave-offerings before them, fell over each other for the honour; and House by House, when the news spread, dropped its doings, and followed the Mysteries — not without song . . .

Some say it was a fag of Prout’s who appealed for rescue from Brer Terrapin to Tar Baby; others, that the introits to the respective creeds (‘Ingle-go-jang,’-‘Ti-yi-Tungalee!’) carried in themselves the seeds of dissent. At any rate, the cleavage developed as swiftly as in a new religion, and by tea-time, when they were fairly hoarse, the rolling world was rent to the death between Ingles versus Tungles, and Brer Terrapin had swept out Number Eleven form-room to the War-cry: ‘Here I come a-bulgin’ and a-bilin’.’ Prep stopped further developments, but they agreed that, as a recreation for wet autumn evenings, the jape was unequalled, and called for its repetition on Saturday.

That was a brilliant evening, too. Both sides went into prayers practically re-dressing themselves. There was a smell of singed fag down the lines and a watery eye or so; but nothing to which the most fastidious could have objected. The Reverend John hinted something about roof-lifting noises.

‘Oh, no, Padre, Sahib. We were only billin’ an’ cooin’ a bit,’ Stalky explained. ‘We haven’t really begun. There’s goin’ to be a tug-o’-war next Saturday with Miss Meadow’s bed-cord —’

‘“Which in dem days would ha’ hilt a mule,”’ the Reverend John quoted. ‘Well, I’ve got to be impartial. I wish you both good luck.’

The week, with its three paper-chases, passed uneventfully, but for a certain amount of raiding and reprisals on new lines that might have warned them they were playing with fire. The Juniors had learned to use the sacred war-chants as signals of distress; oppressed Ingles squealing for aid against oppressing Tungles, and vice versa; so that one never knew when a peaceful form-room would flare up in song and slaughter. But not a soul dreamed, for a moment, that that Saturday’s jape would develop into — what it did! They were rigidly punctilious about the ritual; exquisitely careful as to the weights on Miss Meadow’s bed-cord, kindly lent by Richards, who said he knew nothing about mules, but guaranteed it would hold a barge’s crew; and if Dick Four chose to caparison himself as Archimandrite of Joppa, black as burned cork could make him, why, Stalky, in a nightgown kilted up beneath his sweater, was equally the Pope Symmachus, just converted from heathendom but given to alarming relapses.

It began after tea — say 6.50 p.m. It got into its stride by 7.30 when Turkey, with pillows bound round the ends of forms, invented the Royal Battering–Ram Corps. It grew and — it grew till a quarter to nine when the Prefects, most of whom had fought on one side or the other, thought it time to stop and went in with ground-ashes and the bare hand for ten minutes, . . .

Honours for the action were not awarded by the Head till Monday morning when he dealt out one dozen lickings to selected seniors, eight ‘millies’ (one thousand), fourteen ‘usuals’ (five hundred lines), minor impositions past count, and a stoppage of pocket-money on a scale and for a length of time unprecedented in modern history.

He said the College was within an ace of being burned to the ground when the gas jet in Number Eleven form-room — where they tried to burn Tar Baby, fallen for the moment into the hands of the enemy — was wrenched off, and the lit gas spouted all over the ceiling till some one plugged the pipe with dormitory soap. He said that nothing save his consideration for their future careers kept him from expelling the wanton ruffians who had noosed all the desks in Number Twelve and swept them up in one crackling mound, barring a couple that had pitch-poled through the window. This, again, had been no man’s design but the inspiration of necessity when Tar Baby’s bodyguard, surrounded but defiant, was only rescued at the last minute by Turkey’s immortal flank-attack with the battering-rams that carried away the door of Number Nine. He said that the same remarks applied to the fireplace and mantelpiece in Number Seven which everybody had seen fall out of the wall of their own motion after Brer Terrapin had hitched Miss Meadow’s bed-cord to the bars of the grate.

He said much more, too; but as King pointed out in Common Room that evening, his canings were inept, he had not confiscated the Idols and, above all, had not castigated, as King would have castigated, the disgusting childishness of all concerned.

‘Well,’ said Little Hartopp. ‘I saw the Prefects choking them off as we came into prayers. You’ve reason to reckon that in the scale of suffering.’

‘And more than half the damage was done under your banner, King,’ the Reverend John added.

‘That doesn’t affect my judgment; though, as a matter of fact, I believe Brer Terrapin triumphed over Tar Baby all along the line. Didn’t he, I rout?’

‘It didn t seem to me a fitting time to ask. The Tar Babies were handicapped, of course, by not being able to — ah — tackle a live animal.’

‘I confess,’ Mr. Brownell volunteered, ‘it was the studious perversity of certain aspects of the orgy which impressed me. And yet, what can one exp —’

‘How do you mean?’ King demanded. ‘Dickson Quartus may be eccentric, but —’

‘I was alluding to the vile and calculated indecency of that black doll.’

Mr. Brownell had passed Tar Baby going down to battle, all round and ripe, before Turkey had begun to use it as Bishop Odo’s holy-water sprinkler.

‘It is possible you didn’t —’

‘I never noticed anything,’ said Prout. ‘If there had been, I should have been the first —’

Here Little Hartopp sniggered, which did not cool the air.

‘Peradventure,’ King began with due intake of the breath. ‘Peradventure even I might have taken cognizance of the matter both for my own House’s sake and for my colleague’s . . . No! Folly I concede. Utter childishness and complete absence of discipline in all quarters, as the natural corollary to dabbling in so-called transatlantic humour, I frankly admit. But that there was anything esoterically obscene in the outbreak I absolutely deny.’

‘They’ve been fighting for weeks over those things,’ said Mr. Prout. ‘‘Silly, of course, but I don’t see how it can be dangerous.’

‘Quite true. Any House-master of experience knows that, Brownell,’ the Reverend John put in reprovingly.

‘Given a normal basis of tradition and conduct — certainly,’ Mr. Brownell answered. ‘But with such amazing traditions as exist here, no man with any experience of the Animal Boy can draw your deceptive inferences. That’s all I mean.

Once again, and not for the first time, but with greater heat he testified what smoking led to — what, indeed, he was morally certain existed in full blast under their noses . . .

Gloves were off in three minutes. Pessimists, no more than poets, love each other and, even when they work together, it is one thing to pessimise congenially with an ancient and tried associate who is also a butt, and another to be pessimised over by an inexperienced junior, even though the latter’s college career may have included more exhibitions — nay, even pot-huntings — than one’s own. The Reverend John did his best to pour water on the flames. Little Hartopp, perceiving that it was pure oil, threw in canfuls of his own, from the wings. In the end, words passed which would have made the Common Room uninhabitable for the future, but that Macrea had written (the Reverend John had seen the letter) saying that his knee was fairly re-knit and he was prepared to take on again at half-term. This happened to be the only date since the Creation beyond which Mr. Brownell’s self-respect would not permit him to stay one hour. It solved the situation, amid puffings and blowings and bitter epigrams, and a most distinguished stateliness of bearing all round, till Mr. Brownell’s departure.

‘My dear fellow!’ said the Reverend John to Macrea, on the first night of the latter’s return. ‘I do hope there was nothing in my letters to you — you asked me to keep you posted — that gave you any idea King wasn’t doing his best with your House according to his lights?’

‘Not in the least,’ said Macrea. ‘I’ve the greatest respect for King, but after all, one’s House is one’s House. One can’t stand it being tinkered with by well-meaning outsiders.’

To Mr. Brownell on Bideford station-platform, the Reverend John’s last words were:

‘Well, well. You mustn’t judge us too harshly. I dare say there’s a great deal in what you say. Oh, Yes! King’s conduct was inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable! About the smoking? Lamentable, but we must all bow down, more or less, in the House of Rimmon. We have to compete with the Crammers’ Shops.’

To the Head, in the silence of his study, next day: ‘He didn’t seem to me the kind of animal who’d keep to advantage in our atmosphere. Luckily he lost his temper (King and he are own brothers) and he couldn’t withdraw his resignation.’

‘Excellent. After all, it’s only a few pounds to make up. I’ll slip it in under our recent — er — barrack damages. And what do We think of it all, Gillett?’

‘We do not think at all — any of us,’ said the Reverend John. ‘Youth is its own prophylactic, thank Heaven.’

And the Head, not usually devout, echoed, ‘Thank Heaven!’

‘It was worth it,’ Dick Four pronounced on review of the profit-and-loss account with Number Five in his study.

‘Heap-plenty-bong-assez,’ Stalky assented.

‘But why didn’t King ra’ar up an’ cuss Tar Baby?’ Beetle asked.

‘You preter-pluperfect, fat-ended fool!’ Stalky began —‘Keep your hair on! We all know the Idolaters wasn’t our Uncle Stalky’s idea. But why didn’t King —’

‘Because Dick took care to paint Brer Terrapin King’s House-colours. You can always conciliate King by soothin’ his putrid esprit-demaisong. Ain’t that true, Dick?’

Dick Four, with the smile of modest worth unmasked, said it was so.

‘An’ now,’ Turkey yawned. ‘King an’ Macrea’ll jaw for the rest of the term how he ran his house when Macrea was tryin’ to marry fat widows in Switzerland. Mountaineerin’! ‘Bet Macrea never went near a mountain.’

‘‘One good job, though. I go back to Macrea for Maths. He does know something,’ said Stalky.

‘Why? Didn’t “Mister” know anythin’?’ Beetle asked.

‘‘Bout as much as you,’ was Stalky’s reply.

‘I don’t go about pretending to. What was he like?’

‘“Mister”? Oh, rather like King–King and water.’

Only water was not precisely the fluid that Stalky thought fit to mention.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38