`Oh, he's cracked. King jaws him in Common-room about not keepin' us up to the mark, and Macrea burbles about "dithcipline," an' old Heffy sits between 'em sweatin' big drops. I heard Oke [the Common- room butler] talking to Richards [Prout's house-servant] about it down in the basement the other day when I went down to bag some bread,' said Stalky.
`What did Oke say?' demanded M`Turk, throwing Eric into a corner.
`"Oh," he said, "they make more nise nor a nest full o' jackdaws, an' half of it like we'd no ears to our heads that waited on 'em. They talks over old Prout--what he've done an' left undone about his boys. An' how their boys be fine boys, an' his'n be dom bad." Well, Oke talked like that, you know, and Richards got awf'ly wrathy. He has a down on King for something or other. 'Wonder why?'
`Why, King talks about Prout in form-room--makes allusions, an' all that--only half the chaps are such asses they can't see what he's drivin' at. And d'you remember what he said about the "causal house" last Tuesday? He meant us. They say he says perfectly beastly things to his own house, making fun of Prout's,' said Beetle.
`Well, we didn't come here to mix up in their rows,' M`Turk said wrathfully. `Who'll bathe after call-over? King's takin' it in the cricketfield. Come on.' Turkey seized his straw and led the way.
They reached the sun-blistered pavilion over against the gray Pebbleridge just before roll-call, and, asking no questions, gathered from King's voice and manner that his house was on the road to victory.
`Ah, ha!' said he, turning to show the light of his countenance. `Here we have the ornaments of the Casual House at last. You consider cricket beneath you, I believe'--the flannelled crowd sniggered--`and from what I have seen this after-noon, I fancy many others of your house hold the same view. And may I ask what you purpose to do with your noble selves till tea-time?'
`Going down to bathe, sir,' said Stalky.
`And whence this sudden zeal for cleanliness? There is nothing about you that particularly suggests it. Indeed, so far as I remember--I may be at fault--but a short time ago--'
`Five years, sir,' said Beetle hotly.
King scowled. `One of you was that thing called a water-funk. Yes, a water-funk. So now you wish to wash? It is well. Cleanliness never injured a boy or--a house. We will proceed to business,' and he addressed himself to the call-over board.
`What the deuce did you say anything to him for, Beetle?' said M`Turk angrily, as they strolled towards the big, open sea-baths.
`'Twasn't fair--remindin' one of bein' a water-funk. My first term, too. Heaps of chaps are--when they can't swim.'
`Yes, you ass; but he saw he'd fetched you. You ought never to answer King.'
`But it wasn't fair, Stalky.'
`My Hat! You've been here six years, and you expect fairness. Well, you are a dithering idiot.'
A knot of King's boys, also bound for the baths, hailed them, beseeching them to wash--for the honour of their house.
`That's what comes of King's jawin' and messin'. Those young animals wouldn't have thought of it unless he'd put it into their heads. Now they'll be funny about it for weeks,' said Stalky. `Don't take any notice.'
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