`Poor old Fat-Sow! I was a fag when he left. How many does that make to us, Foxy?'
`Mr. Duncan, he is the ninth. He came here when he was no bigger than little Grey tertius. My old regiment, too. Yiss, nine to us, Mr. Corkran, up to date.'
The boys went out into the wet, walking swiftly.
`'Wonder how it feels--to be shot and all that,' said Stalky, as they splashed down a lane. `Where did it happen, Beetle?'
`Oh, out in India somewhere. We're always rowin' there. But look here, Stalky, what is the good o' sittin' under a hedge an' cattin'? It's be-eastly cold. It's be-eastly wet, and we'll be collared as sure as a gun.'
`Shut up! Did you ever know your Uncle Stalky get you into a mess yet?' Like many other leaders, Stalky did not dwell on past defeats.
They pushed through a dripping hedge, landed among water-logged clods, and sat down on a rust- coated harrow. The cheroot burned with sputterings of saltpetre. They smoked it gingerly, each passing to the other between closed forefinger and thumb.
`Good job we hadn't one apiece, ain't it?' said Stalky, shivering through set teeth. To prove his words he immediately laid all before them, and they followed his example. . . .
`I told you,' moaned Beetle, sweating clammy drops. `Oh, Stalky, you are a fool!'
`Fe cat, tu cat, il cat. Nous cattons!' M`Turk handed up his contribution and lay hopelessly on the cold iron.
`Something's wrong with the beastly thing. I say, Beetle, have you been droppin' ink on it?'
But Beetle was in no case to answer. Limp and empty, they sprawled across the harrow, the rust marking their ulsters in red squares and the abandoned cheroot-end reeking under their very cold noses. Then-- they had heard nothing--the Head himself stood before them--the Head who should have been in town bribing examiners--the Head fantastically attired in old tweeds and a deer-stalker!
`Ah,' he said, fingering his moustache. `Very good. I might have guessed who it was. You will go back to the College and give my compliments to Mr. King and ask him to give you an extra-special licking. You will then do me five hundred lines. I shall be back to-morrow. Five hundred lines by five o'clock to-morrow. You are also gated for a week. This is not exactly the time for breaking bounds. Extra- special, please.'
He disappeared over the hedge as lightly as he had come. There was a murmur of women's voices in the deep lane.
`Oh, you Prooshian brute!' said M`Turk as the voices died away. `Stalky, it's all your silly fault.'
`Kill him! Kill him!' gasped Beetle.
`I ca-an't. I'm going to cat again . . . I don't mind that, but King 'll gloat over us horrid. Extraspecial, ooh!'
Stalky made no answer--not even a soft one. They went to College and received that for which they had been sent. King enjoyed himself most thoroughly, for by virtue of their seniority the boys were exempt from his hand, save under special order. Luckily, he was no expert in the gentle art.
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