A Little Prep.
"Qui procul binc--the legend's writ,
THE Easter term was but a month old when Stettson major, a day-boy, contracted diphtheria, and the Head was very angry. He decreed a new and narrower set of bounds--the infection had been traced to an out-lying farmhouse--urged the prefects severely to lick all trespassers, and promised extra attentions from his own hand. There were no words bad enough for Stettson major, quarantined at his mother's house, who had lowered the school-average of health. This he said in the gymnasium after prayers. Then he wrote some two hundred letters to as many anxious parents and guardians, and bade the school carry on. The trouble did not spread, but, one night, a dog-cart drove to the Head's door, and in the morning the Head had gone, leaving all things in charge of Mr. King, senior house-master. The Head often ran up to town, where the school devoutly believed he bribed officials for early proofs of the Army Examination papers; but this absence was unusually prolonged.
`Downy old bird!' said Stalky to the allies, one wet afternoon, in the study. `He must have gone on a bend an' been locked up, under a false name.'
`What for?' Beetle entered joyously into the libel.
`Forty shillin's or a month for hackin' the chucker-out of the Pavvy on the shins. Bates always has a spree when he goes to town. 'Wish he was back, though. I'm about sick o' King's "whips an' scorpions" an' lectures on public-school spirit--yah!--and scholarship!'
`"Crass an' materialised brutality of the middle-classes--readin' solely for marks. Not a cholar in the whole school,"' M`Turk quoted, pensively boring holes in the mantelpiece with a hot poker.
`That's rather a sickly way of spending an afternoon. 'Stinks, too. Let's come out an' smoke. Here's a treat.' Stalky held up a long Indian cheroot. `'Bagged it from my pater last holidays. I'm a bit shy of it, though; it's heftier than a pipe. We'll smoke it palaver-fashion. Hand it round, eh? Let's lie up behind the old harrow on the Monkey-farm Road.'
`Out of bounds. Bounds beastly strict these days, too. Besides, we shall cat.' Beetle sniffed the cheroot critically. `It's a regular Pomposo Stinkadore
`You can; I shan't. What d'you say, Turkey?'
`Oh, may's well, I s'pose.'
`Chuck on your cap, then. It's two to one, Beetle. Hout you come!'
They saw a group of boys by the notice-board in the corridor; little Foxy, the school sergeant, among them.
`More bounds, I expect,' said Stalky. `Hullo, Foxibus, who are you in mournin' for?' There was a broad band of crape round Foxy's arm.
`He was in my old regiment,' said Foxy, jerking his head towards the notices, where a newspaper cutting was thumb-tacked between call-over lists.
`By gum!' quoth Stalky, uncovering as he read. `It's old Duncan--Fat-Sow Duncan--killed on duty at something or other Kotal. "Rallyin' his men with conspicuous gallantry." He would, of course. "The body was recovered." That's all right. they cut 'em up sometimes, don't they, Foxy?'
`Horrid,' said the sergeant briefly.
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