`Not half bad years, either,' said M`Turk. `I shall be sorry to leave the old Coll.; shan't you?'
They looked out over the sea creaming along the Pebble Ridge in the clear winter light. `'Wonder where we shall all be this time next year?' said Stalky absently.
`This time five years,' said M`Turk.
`Oh,' said Beetle, `my leavin's between ourselves. The Head hasn't told any one. I know he hasn't, because Prout grunted at me to-day that if I were more reasonable--yah!--I might be a prefect next term. I suppose he's hard up for his prefects.'
`Let's finish up with a row with the Sixth,' suggested M`Turk.
`Dirty little schoolboys!' said Stalky, who already saw himself a Sandhurst cadet. `What's the use?'
`Moral effect,' quoth M`Turk. `Leave an imperishable tradition, and all the rest of it.'
`Better go into Bideford an' pay up our debts,' said Stalky. `I've got three quid out of my father--ad hoc. Don't owe more than thirty bob, either. Cut along, Beetle, and ask the Head for leave. Say you want to correct the Swillingford Patriot.'
`Well, I do,' said Beetle. `It'll be my last issue, and I'd like it to look decent. I'll catch him before he goes to his lunch.'
Ten minutes later they wheeled out in line, by grace released from five o'clock call-over, and all the afternoon lay before them. So also unluckily did King, who never passed without witticisms. But brigades of Kings could not have ruffled Beetle that day.
`Aha! Enjoying the study of light literature, my friends,' said he, rubbing his hands. `Common mathematics are not for such soaring minds as yours, are they?'
(`One hundred a year,' thought Beetle, smiling into vacancy.)
`Our open incompetence takes refuge in the flowery paths of inaccurate fiction. But a day of reckoning approaches, Beetle mine. I myself have prepared a few trifling foolish questions in Latin prose which can hardly be evaded even by your practised acts of deception. Ye-es, Latin prose. I think, if I may say so -- but we shall see when the papers are set -- "Ulpian serves your need." "Aha! Elucescebat, quoth our friend." We shall see! We shall see!'
Still no sign from Beetle. He was on a steamer, his passage paid into the wide and wonderful world -- a thousand leagues beyond Lundy Island.
King dropped him with a snarl.
`He doesn't know. He'll go on correctin' exercises an' jawin' an' showin' off before the little boys next term -- and next.' Beetle hurried after his companions up the steep path of the furze-clad hill behind the College.
They were throwing pebbles on the top of the gasometer, and the grimy gas-man in charge bade them desist. They watched him oil a turncock sunk in the ground between two furze-bushes.
`Cokey, what's that for?' said Stalky.
`To turn the gas on to the kitchens,' said Cokey. `If so be I didn't turn her on, yeou young gen'lemen 'ud be larnin' your book by candlelight.'
`Um!' said Stalky, and was silent for at least a minute.
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