_Regulus, a Roman general, defeated the Carthaginians 256 B.C., but was
next year defeated and taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, who sent him
to Rome with an embassy to ask for peace or an exchange of prisoners.
Regulus strongly advised the Roman Senate to make no terms with the
enemy. He then returned to Carthage and was put to death._
The Fifth Form had been dragged several times in its collective life,
from one end of the school Horace to the other. Those were the years
when Army examiners gave thousands of marks for Latin, and it was Mr.
King's hated business to defeat them.
Hear him, then, on a raw November morning at second lesson.
'Aha!' he began, rubbing his hands. '_Cras ingens iterabimus aequor._
Our portion to-day is the Fifth Ode of the Third Book, I
believe--concerning one Regulus, a gentleman. And how often have we been
'Twice, sir,' said Malpass, head of the Form.
Mr. King shuddered. 'Yes, twice, quite literally,' he said. 'To-day,
with an eye to your Army _viva-voce_ examinations--ugh!--I shall exact
somewhat freer and more florid renditions. With feeling and
comprehension if that be possible. I except'--here his eye swept the
back benches--'our friend and companion Beetle, from whom, now as
always, I demand an absolutely literal translation.' The form laughed
'Spare his blushes! Beetle charms us first.'
Beetle stood up, confident in the possession of a guaranteed construe,
left behind by M'Turk, who had that day gone into the sick-house with a
cold. Yet he was too wary a hand to show confidence.
'_Credidimus_, we--believe--we have believed,' he opened in
hesitating slow time, '_tonantem Joven_, thundering Jove--_regnare_,
to reign--_caelo_, in heaven. _Augustus_, Augustus--_habebitur_,
will be held or considered--_praesens divus_, a present
God--_adjectis Britannis_, the Britons being added--_imperio_, to the
Empire--_gravibusque Persis_, with the heavy--er, stern Persians.'
'The grave or stern Persians.' Beetle pulled up with the
'Thank-God-I-have-done-my-duty' air of Nelson in the cockpit.
'I am quite aware,' said King, 'that the first stanza is about the
extent of your knowledge, but continue, sweet one, continue. _Gravibus_,
by the way, is usually translated as "troublesome."'
Beetle drew a long and tortured breath. The second stanza (which carries
over to the third) of that Ode is what is technically called a
'stinker.' But M'Turk had done him handsomely.
'_Milesne Crassi_, had--has the soldier of Crassus--_vixit_,
lived--_turpis maritus_, a disgraceful husband--'
'You slurred the quantity of the word after _turpis_,' said King. 'Let's
Beetle guessed again, and for a wonder hit the correct quantity. 'Er--a
disgraceful husband--_conjuge barbara_, with a barbarous spouse.'
'Why do you select _that_ disgustful equivalent out of all the
dictionary?' King snapped. 'Isn't "wife" good enough for you?'
'Yes, sir. But what do I do about this bracket, sir? Shall I take it
'Confine yourself at present to the soldier of Crassus.'
'Yes, sir. _Et_, and--_consenuit_, has he grown old--_in armis_, in
the--er--arms--_hositum socerorum_, of his father-in-law's enemies.'
'Who? How? Which?'
'Arms of his enemies' fathers-in-law, sir.'
'Tha-anks. By the way, what meaning might you attach to _in armis_?'
'Oh, weapons--weapons of war, sir.' There was a virginal note in
Beetle's voice as though he had been falsely accused of uttering
indecencies. 'Shall I take the bracket now, sir?'
'Since it seems to be troubling you.'
'_Pro Curia_, O for the Senate House--_inversique mores_, and manners
'Ve-ry like your translation. Meantime, the soldier of Crassus?'
'_Sub rege Medo_, under a Median King--_Marsus et Apulus_, he being a
Marsian and an Apulian.'
'Who? The Median King?'
'No, sir. The soldier of Crassus. _Oblittus_ agrees with _milesne
Crassi_, sir,' volunteered too-hasty Beetle.
'Does it? It doesn't with _me_.'
'_Oh-blight-us_,' Beetle corrected hastily, 'forgetful--_anciliorum_, of
the shields, or trophies--_et nominis_, and the--his name--_et togae_,
and the toga--_eternaeque Vestae_, and eternal Vesta--_incolumi Jove_,
Jove being safe--_et urbe Roma_, and the Roman city.' With an air of
hardly restrained zeal--'Shall I go on, sir?'
Mr. King winced. 'No, thank you. You have indeed given us a translation!
May I ask if it conveys any meaning whatever to your so-called mind?'
'Oh, I think so, sir.' This with gentle toleration for Horace and all
'We envy you. Sit down.'
Beetle sat down relieved, well knowing that a reef of uncharted
genitives stretched ahead of him, on which in spite of M'Turk's
sailing-directions he would infallibly have been wrecked.
Rattray, who took up the task, steered neatly through them and came
unscathed to port.
'Here we require drama,' said King. 'Regulus himself is speaking now.
Who shall represent the provident-minded Regulus? Winton, will you
Winton of King's House, a long, heavy, tow-headed Second Fifteen
forward, overdue for his First Fifteen colours, and in aspect like an
earnest, elderly horse, rose up, and announced, among other things,
that he had seen 'signs affixed to Punic deluges.' Half the Form shouted
for joy, and the other half for joy that there was something to
Mr. King opened and shut his eyes with great swiftness. '_Signa adfixa
delubris_,' he gasped. 'So _delubris_ is "deluges" is it? Winton, in all
our dealings, have I ever suspected you of a jest?'
'No, sir,' said the rigid and angular Winton, while the Form rocked
'And yet you assert _delubris_ means "deluges." Whether I am a fit
subject for such a jape is, of course, a matter of opinion, but....
Winton, you are normally conscientious. May we assume you looked out
'No, sir.' Winton was privileged to speak that truth dangerous to all
who stand before Kings.
''Made a shot at it then?'
Every line of Winton's body showed he had done nothing of the sort.
Indeed, the very idea that 'Pater' Winton (and a boy is not called
'Pater' by companions for his frivolity) would make a shot at anything
was beyond belief. But he replied, 'Yes,' and all the while worked with
his right heel as though he were heeling a ball at punt-about.
Though none dared to boast of being a favourite with King, the taciturn,
three-cornered Winton stood high in his House-Master's opinion. It
seemed to save him neither rebuke nor punishment, but the two were in
some fashion sympathetic.
'Hm!' said King drily. 'I was going to say--_Flagito additis damnum_,
but I think--I think I see the process. Beetle, the translation of
Beetle raised his head from his shaking arm long enough to answer:
There was an impressive pause while King checked off crimes on his
fingers. Then to Beetle the much-enduring man addressed winged words:
'Guessing,' said he. 'Guessing, Beetle, as usual, from the look of
_delubris_ that it bore some relation to _diluvium_ or deluge, you
imparted the result of your half-baked lucubrations to Winton who seems
to have been lost enough to have accepted it. Observing next, your
companion's fall, from the presumed security of your undistinguished
position in the rear-guard, you took another pot-shot. The turbid chaos
of your mind threw up some memory of the word "dilapidations" which you
have pitifully attempted to disguise under the synonym of "ruins."'
As this was precisely what Beetle had done he looked hurt but forgiving.
'We will attend to this later,' said King. 'Go on, Winton, and retrieve
_Delubris_ happened to be the one word which Winton had not looked out
and had asked Beetle for, when they were settling into their places. He
forged ahead with no further trouble. Only when he rendered _scilicet_
as 'forsooth,' King erupted.
'Regulus,' he said, 'was not a leader-writer for the penny press, nor,
for that matter, was Horace. Regulus says: "The soldier ransomed by gold
will come keener for the fight--will he by--by gum!" _That's_ the
meaning of _scilicet_. It indicates contempt--bitter contempt.
"Forsooth," forsooth! You'll be talking about "speckled beauties" and
"eventually transpire" next. Howell, what do you make of that doubled
"Vidi ego--ego vidi"? It wasn't put in to fill up the metre, you know.'
'Isn't it intensive, sir?' said Howell, afflicted by a genuine interest
in what he read. 'Regulus was a bit in earnest about Rome making no
terms with Carthage--and he wanted to let the Romans understand it,
didn't he, sir?'
'Less than your usual grace, but the fact. Regulus _was_ in earnest. He
was also engaged at the same time in cutting his own throat with every
word he uttered. He knew Carthage which (your examiners won't ask you
this so you needn't take notes) was a sort of God-forsaken nigger
Manchester. Regulus was not thinking about his own life. He was telling
Rome the truth. He was playing for his side. Those lines from the
eighteenth to the fortieth ought to be written in blood. Yet there are
things in human garments which will tell you that Horace was a
flâneur--a man about town. Avoid such beings. Horace knew a very great
deal. _He_ knew! _Erit ille fortis_--"will he be brave who once to
faithless foes has knelt?" And again (stop pawing with your hooves,
Thornton!) _hic unde vitam sumeret inscius_. That means roughly--but I
perceive I am ahead of my translators. Begin at _hic unde_, Vernon, and
let us see if you have the spirit of Regulus.'
Now no one expected fireworks from gentle Paddy Vernon, sub-prefect of
Hartopp's House, but, as must often be the case with growing boys, his
mind was in abeyance for the time being, and he said, all in a rush, on
behalf of Regulus: '_O magna Carthago probrosis altior Italiae ruinis_,
O Carthage, thou wilt stand forth higher than the ruins of Italy.'
Even Beetle, most lenient of critics, was interested at this point,
though he did not join the half-groan of reprobation from the wiser
heads of the Form.
'_Please_ don't mind me,' said King, and Vernon very kindly did not. He
ploughed on thus: 'He (Regulus) is related to have removed from himself
the kiss of the shameful wife and of his small children as less by the
head, and, being stern, to have placed his virile visage on the ground.'
Since King loved 'virile' about as much as he did 'spouse' or 'forsooth'
the Form looked up hopefully. But Jove thundered not.
'Until,' Vernon continued, 'he should have confirmed the sliding fathers
as being the author of counsel never given under an alias.'
He stopped, conscious of stillness round him like the dread calm of the
typhoon's centre. King's opening voice was sweeter than honey.
'I am painfully aware by bitter experience that I cannot give you any
idea of the passion, the power, the--the essential guts of the lines
which you have so foully outraged in our presence. But--' the note
changed, 'so far as in me lies, I will strive to bring home to you,
Vernon, the fact that there exist in Latin a few pitiful rules of
grammar, of syntax, nay, even of declension, which were not created for
your incult sport--your Boeotian diversion. You will, therefore, Vernon,
write out and bring to me to-morrow a word-for-word English-Latin
translation of the Ode, together with a full list of all adjectives--an
adjective is not a verb, Vernon, as the Lower Third will tell you--all
adjectives, their number, case, and gender. Even now I haven't begun to
deal with you faithfully.'
'I--I'm very sorry, sir,' Vernon stammered.
'You mistake the symptoms, Vernon. You are possibly discomfited by the
imposition, but sorrow postulates some sort of mind, intellect, _nous_.
Your rendering of _probrosis_ alone stamps you as lower than the beasts
of the field. Will some one take the taste out of our mouths?
And--talking of tastes--' He coughed. There was a distinct flavour of
chlorine gas in the air. Up went an eyebrow, though King knew perfectly
well what it meant.
'Mr. Hartopp's st--science class next door,' said Malpass.
'Oh yes. I had forgotten. Our newly established Modern Side, of course.
Perowne, open the windows; and Winton, go on once more from _interque
'And hastened away,' said Winton, 'surrounded by his mourning friends,
into--into illustrious banishment. But I got that out of Conington,
sir,' he added in one conscientious breath.
'I am aware. The master generally knows his ass's crib, though I acquit
_you_ of any intention that way. Can you suggest anything for _egregius
exul_? Only "egregious exile"? I fear "egregious" is a good word ruined.
No! You can't in this case improve on Conington. Now then for _atqui
sciebat quae sibi barbarus tortor pararet_. The whole force of it lies
in the _atqui_.'
'Although he knew,' Winton suggested.
'Stronger than that, I think.'
'He who knew well,' Malpass interpolated.
'Ye-es. "Well though he knew." I don't like Conington's "well-witting."
It's Wardour Street.'
'Well though he knew what the savage torturer was--was getting ready for
him,' said Winton.
'Ye-es. Had in store for him.'
'Yet he brushed aside his kinsmen and the people delaying his return.'
'Ye-es; but then how do you render _obstantes_?'
'If it's a free translation mightn't _obstantes_ and _morantem_ come to
about the same thing, sir?'
'Nothing comes to "about the same thing" with Horace, Winton. As I have
said, Horace was not a journalist. No, I take it that his kinsmen bodily
withstood his departure, whereas the crowd--_populumque_--the democracy
stood about futilely pitying him and getting in the way. Now for that
noblest of endings--_quam si clientum_,' and King ran off into the
'As though some tedious business o'er
Of clients' court, his journey lay
Towards Venafrum's grassy floor
Or Sparta-built Tarentum's bay.
All right, Winton. Beetle, when you've quite finished dodging the fresh
air yonder, give me the meaning of _tendens_--and turn down
'Me, sir? _Tendens_, sir? Oh! Stretching away in the direction of, sir.'
'Idiot! Regulus was not a feature of the landscape. He was a man,
self-doomed to death by torture. _Atqui, sciebat_--knowing it--having
achieved it for his country's sake--can't you hear that _atqui_ cut like
a knife?--he moved off with some dignity. That is why Horace out of the
whole golden Latin tongue chose the one word "tendens"--which is utterly
The gross injustice of being asked to translate it, converted Beetle
into a young Christian martyr, till King buried his nose in his
'I think they've broken another gas-bottle next door, sir,' said Howell.
'They're always doing it.' The Form coughed as more chlorine came in.
'Well, I suppose we must be patient with the Modern Side,' said King.
'But it is almost insupportable for this Side. Vernon, what are you
Vernon's mind had returned to him glowing and inspired. He chuckled as
he underlined his Horace.
'It appears to amuse you,' said King. 'Let us participate. What is it?'
'The last two lines of the Tenth Ode, in this book, sir,' was Vernon's
'What? Oh, I see. _Non hoc semper erit liminis aut aquae caelestis
patiens latus_.' King's mouth twitched to hide a grin. 'Was that
done with intention?'
[Footnote 2: 'This side will not always be patient of rain and waiting
on the threshold.']
'I--I thought it fitted, sir.'
'It does. It's distinctly happy. What put it into your thick head,
'I don't know, sir, except we did the Ode last term.'
'And you remembered? The same head that minted _probrosis_ as a verb!
Vernon, you are an enigma. No! This Side will _not_ always be patient of
unheavenly gases and waters. I will make representations to our
so-called Moderns. Meantime (who shall say I am not just?) I remit you
your accrued pains and penalties in regard to _probrosim, probrosis,
probrosit_ and other enormities. I oughtn't to do it, but this Side is
occasionally human. By no means bad, Paddy.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Vernon, wondering how inspiration had visited
Then King, with a few brisk remarks about Science, headed them back to
Regulus, of whom and of Horace and Rome and evil-minded commercial
Carthage and of the democracy eternally futile, he explained, in all
ages and climes, he spoke for ten minutes; passing thence to the next
Ode--_Delicta Majorum_--where he fetched up, full-voiced, upon--'_Dis te
minorem quod geris imperas_' (Thou rulest because thou bearest thyself
as lower than the Gods)--making it a text for a discourse on manners,
morals, and respect for authority as distinct from bottled gases, which
lasted till the bell rang. Then Beetle, concertinaing his books,
observed to Winton, 'When King's really on tap he's an interestin' dog.
Hartopp's chlorine uncorked him.'
'Yes; but why did you tell me _delubris_ was "deluges," you silly ass?'
'Well, that uncorked him too. Look out, you hoof-handed old owl!' Winton
had cleared for action as the Form poured out like puppies at play and
was scragging Beetle. Stalky from behind collared Winton low. The three
fell in confusion.
'_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_,' quoth Stalky, ruffling Winton's
lint-white locks. 'Mustn't jape with Number Five study. Don't be too
virtuous. Don't brood over it. 'Twon't count against you in your future
caree-ah. Cheer up, Pater.'
'Pull him off my--er--essential guts, will you?' said Beetle from
beneath. 'He's squashin' 'em.'
They dispersed to their studies.
* * * * *
No one, the owner least of all, can explain what is in a growing boy's
mind. It might have been the blind ferment of adolescence; Stalky's
random remarks about virtue might have stirred him; like his betters he
might have sought popularity by way of clowning; or, as the Head
asserted years later, the only known jest of his serious life might have
worked on him, as a sober-sided man's one love colours and dislocates
all his after days. But, at the next lesson, mechanical drawing with Mr.
Lidgett who as drawing-master had very limited powers of punishment,
Winton fell suddenly from grace and let loose a live mouse in the
form-room. The whole form, shrieking and leaping high, threw at it all
the plaster cones, pyramids, and fruit in high relief--not to mention
ink-pots--that they could lay hands on. Mr. Lidgett reported at once to
the Head; Winton owned up to his crime, which, venial in the Upper
Third, pardonable at a price in the Lower Fourth, was, of course, rank
ruffianism on the part of a Fifth Form boy; and so, by graduated stages,
he arrived at the Head's study just before lunch, penitent, perturbed,
annoyed with himself and--as the Head said to King in the corridor after
the meal--more human than he had known him in seven years.
'You see,' the Head drawled on, 'Winton's only fault is a certain
costive and unaccommodating virtue. So this comes very happily.'
'I've never noticed any sign of it,' said King. Winton was in King's
House, and though King as pro-consul might, and did, infernally oppress
his own Province, once a black and yellow cap was in trouble at the
hands of the Imperial authority King fought for him to the very last
steps of Caesar's throne.
'Well, you yourself admitted just now that a mouse was beneath the
occasion,' the Head answered.
'It was.' Mr. King did not love Mr. Lidgett. 'It should have been a rat.
But--but--I hate to plead it--it's the lad's first offence.'
'Could you have damned him more completely, King?'
'Hm. What is the penalty?' said King, in retreat, but keeping up a
'Only my usual few lines of Virgil to be shown up by tea-time.'
The Head's eyes turned slightly to that end of the corridor where
Mullins, Captain of the Games ('Pot,' 'old Pot,' or 'Potiphar' Mullins),
was pinning up the usual Wednesday notice--'Big, Middle, and Little Side
Football--A to K, L to Z, 3 to 4.45 P.M.'
You cannot write out the Head's usual few (which means five hundred)
Latin lines and play football for one hour and three-quarters between
the hours of 1.30 and 5 P.M. Winton had evidently no intention of trying
to do so, for he hung about the corridor with a set face and an uneasy
foot. Yet it was law in the school, compared with which that of the
Medes and Persians was no more than a non-committal resolution, that any
boy, outside the First Fifteen, who missed his football for any reason
whatever, and had not a written excuse, duly signed by competent
authority to explain his absence, would receive not less than three
strokes with a ground-ash from the Captain of the Games, generally a
youth between seventeen and eighteen years, rarely under eleven stone
('Pot' was nearer thirteen), and always in hard condition.
King knew without inquiry that the Head had given Winton no such excuse.
'But he is practically a member of the First Fifteen. He has played for
it all this term,' said King. 'I believe his Cap should have arrived
'His Cap has not been given him. Officially, therefore, he is naught. I
rely on old Pot.'
'But Mullins is Winton's study-mate,' King persisted.
Pot Mullins and Pater Winton were cousins and rather close friends.
'That will make no difference to Mullins--or Winton, if I know 'em,'
said the Head.
'But--but,' King played his last card desperately, 'I was going to
recommend Winton for extra sub-prefect in my House, now Carton
'Certainly,' said the Head. 'Why not? He will be excellent by tea-time,
At that moment they saw Mr. Lidgett, tripping down the corridor, waylaid
'It's about that mouse-business at mechanical drawing,' Winton opened,
swinging across his path.
'Yes, yes, highly disgraceful,' Mr. Lidgett panted.
'I know it was,' said Winton. 'It--it was a cad's trick because--'
'Because you knew I couldn't give you more than fifty lines,' said Mr.
'Well, anyhow I've come to apologise for it.'
'Certainly,' said Mr. Lidgett, and added, for he was a kindly man, 'I
think that shows quite right feeling. I'll tell the Head at once I'm
'No--no!' The boy's still unmended voice jumped from the growl to the
squeak. 'I didn't mean _that_! I--I did it on principle. Please
don't--er--do anything of that kind.'
Mr. Lidgett looked him up and down and, being an artist, understood.
'Thank you, Winton,' he said. 'This shall be between ourselves.'
'You heard?' said King, indecent pride in his voice.
'Of course. You thought he was going to get Lidgett to beg him off the
King denied this with so much warmth that the Head laughed and King went
away in a huff.
'By the way,' said the Head, 'I've told Winton to do his lines in your
form-room--not in his study.'
'Thanks,' said King over his shoulder, for the Head's orders had saved
Winton and Mullins, who was doing extra Army work in the study, from an
embarrassing afternoon together.
An hour later, King wandered into his still form-room as though by
accident. Winton was hard at work.
'Aha!' said King, rubbing his hands. 'This does not look like games,
Winton. Don't let me arrest your facile pen. Whence this sudden love
'Impot from the Head, sir, for that mouse-business this morning.'
'Rumours thereof have reached us. That was a lapse on your part into
Lower Thirdery which I don't quite understand.'
The 'tump-tump' of the puntabouts before the sides settled to games came
through the open window. Winton, like his House-Master, loved fresh air.
Then they heard Paddy Vernon, sub-prefect on duty, calling the roll in
the field and marking defaulters. Winton wrote steadily. King curled
himself up on a desk, hands round knees. One would have said that the
man was gloating over the boy's misfortune, but the boy understood.
'_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_,' King quoted presently. 'It is
necessary to bear oneself as lower than the local gods--even than
drawing-masters who are precluded from effective retaliation. I _do_
wish you'd tried that mouse-game with me, Pater.'
Winton grinned; then sobered 'It was a cad's trick, sir, to play on Mr.
Lidgett.' He peered forward at the page he was copying.
'Well, "the sin _I_ impute to each frustrate ghost"--' King stopped
himself. 'Why do you goggle like an owl? Hand me the Mantuan and I'll
dictate. No matter. Any rich Virgilian measures will serve. I may
peradventure recall a few.' He began:
'Tu regere imperio populos Romane memento
Hae tibi erunt artes pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
There you have it all, Winton. Write that out twice and yet once again.'
For the next forty minutes, with never a glance at the book, King paid
out the glorious hexameters (and King could read Latin as though it were
alive), Winton hauling them in and coiling them away behind him as
trimmers in a telegraph-ship's hold coil away deep-sea cable. King broke
from the Aeneid to the Georgics and back again, pausing now and then to
translate some specially loved line or to dwell on the treble-shot
texture of the ancient fabric. He did not allude to the coming interview
with Mullins except at the last, when he said, 'I think at this
juncture, Pater, I need not ask you for the precise significance of
_atqui sciebat quae sibi barbarus tortor_.'
The ungrateful Winton flushed angrily, and King loafed out to take five
o'clock call-over, after which he invited little Hartopp to tea and a
talk on chlorine-gas. Hartopp accepted the challenge like a bantam, and
the two went up to King's study about the same time as Winton returned
to the form-room beneath it to finish his lines.
Then half a dozen of the Second Fifteen, who should have been washing,
strolled in to condole with 'Pater' Winton, whose misfortune and its
consequences were common talk. No one was more sincere than the long,
red-headed, knotty-knuckled 'Paddy' Vernon, but, being a careless
animal, he joggled Winton's desk.
'Curse you for a silly ass!' said Winton. 'Don't do that.'
No one is expected to be polite while under punishment, so Vernon,
sinking his sub-prefectship, replied peacefully enough:
'Well, don't be wrathy, Pater.'
'I'm not,' said Winton. 'Get out! This ain't your House form-room.'
''Form-room don't belong to you. Why don't you go to your own study?'
'Because Mullins is there waitin' for the victim,' said Stalky
delicately, and they all laughed. 'You ought to have shaken that mouse
out of your trouser-leg, Pater. That's the way _I_ did in my youth.
Pater's revertin' to his second childhood. Never mind, Pater, we all
respect you and your future caree-ah.'
Winton, still writhing, growled. Vernon leaning on the desk somehow
shook it again. Then he laughed.
'What are you grinning at?' Winton asked.
'I was only thinkin' of _you_ being sent up to take a lickin' from Pot.
I swear I don't think it's fair. You've never shirked a game in your
life, and you're as good as in the First Fifteen already. Your Cap ought
to have been delivered last week, oughtn't it?'
It was law in the school that no man could by any means enjoy the
privileges and immunities of the First Fifteen till the black velvet cap
with the gold tassel, made by dilatory Exeter outfitters, had been
actually set on his head. Ages ago, a large-built and unruly Second
Fifteen had attempted to change this law, but the prefects of that age
were still larger, and the lively experiment had never been repeated.
'Will you,' said Winton very slowly, 'kindly mind your own damned
business, you cursed, clumsy, fat-headed fool?'
The form-room was as silent as the empty field in the darkness outside.
Vernon shifted his feet uneasily.
'Well, _I_ shouldn't like to take a lickin' from Pot,' he said.
'Wouldn't you?' Winton asked, as he paged the sheets of lines with hands
'No, I shouldn't,' said Vernon, his freckles growing more distinct on
the bridge of his white nose.
'Well, I'm going to take it'--Winton moved clear of the desk as he
spoke. 'But _you're_ going to take a lickin' from me first.' Before any
one realised it, he had flung himself neighing against Vernon. No
decencies were observed on either side, and the rest looked on amazed.
The two met confusedly, Vernon trying to do what he could with his
longer reach; Winton, insensible to blows, only concerned to drive his
enemy into a corner and batter him to pulp. This he managed over against
the fire-place, where Vernon dropped half-stunned. 'Now I'm going to
give you your lickin',' said Winton. 'Lie there till I get a ground-ash
and I'll cut you to pieces. If you move, I'll chuck you out of the
window.' He wound his hands into the boy's collar and waistband, and had
actually heaved him half off the ground before the others with one
accord dropped on his head, shoulders, and legs. He fought them crazily
in an awful hissing silence. Stalky's sensitive nose was rubbed along
the floor; Beetle received a jolt in the wind that sent him whistling
and crowing against the wall; Perowne's forehead was cut, and Malpass
came out with an eye that explained itself like a dying rainbow through
a whole week.
'Mad! Quite mad!' said Stalky, and for the third time wriggled back to
Winton's throat. The door opened and King came in, Hartopp's little
figure just behind him. The mound on the floor panted and heaved but did
not rise, for Winton still squirmed vengefully. 'Only a little play,
sir,' said Perowne. ''Only hit my head against a form.' This was
'Oh,' said King. '_Dimovit obstantes propinquos._ You, I presume, are
the _populus_ delaying Winton's return to--Mullins, eh?'
'No, sir,' said Stalky behind his claret-coloured handkerchief. 'We're
the _maerentes amicos_.'
'Not bad! You see, some of it sticks after all,' King chuckled to
Hartopp, and the two masters left without further inquiries.
The boys sat still on the now-passive Winton.
'Well,' said Stalky at last, 'of all the putrid he-asses, Pater, you are
'I'm sorry. I'm awfully sorry,' Winton began, and they let him rise. He
held out his hand to the bruised and bewildered Vernon. 'Sorry, Paddy.
I--I must have lost my temper. I--I don't know what's the matter
''Fat lot of good that'll do my face at tea,' Vernon grunted. 'Why
couldn't you say there was something wrong with you instead of lamming
out like a lunatic? Is my lip puffy?'
'Just a trifle. Look at my beak! Well, we got all these pretty marks at
footer--owin' to the zeal with which we played the game,' said Stalky,
dusting himself. 'But d'you think you're fit to be let loose again,
Pater? 'Sure you don't want to kill another sub-prefect? I wish _I_ was
Pot. I'd cut your sprightly young soul out.'
'I s'pose I ought to go to Pot now,' said Winton.
'And let all the other asses see you lookin' like this! Not much. We'll
all come up to Number Five Study and wash off in hot water. Beetle, you
aren't damaged. Go along and light the gas-stove.'
'There's a tin of cocoa in my study somewhere,' Perowne shouted after
him. 'Rootle round till you find it, and take it up.'
Separately, by different roads, Vernon's jersey pulled half over his
head, the boys repaired to Number Five Study. Little Hartopp and King, I
am sorry to say, leaned over the banisters of King's landing
'Ve-ry human,' said little Hartopp. 'Your virtuous Winton, having got
himself into trouble, takes it out of my poor old Paddy. I wonder what
precise lie Paddy will tell about his face.'
'But surely you aren't going to embarrass him by asking?' said King.
'_Your_ boy won,' said Hartopp.
'To go back to what we were discussing,' said King quickly, 'do you
pretend that your modern system of inculcating unrelated facts about
chlorine, for instance, all of which may be proved fallacies by the time
the boys grow up, can have any real bearing on education--even the low
type of it that examiners expect?'
'I maintain nothing. But is it any worse than your Chinese reiteration
of uncomprehended syllables in a dead tongue?'
'Dead, forsooth!' King fairly danced. 'The only living tongue on earth!
Chinese! On my word, Hartopp!'
'And at the end of seven years--how often have I said it?' Hartopp went
on,--'seven years of two hundred and twenty days of six hours each, your
victims go away with nothing, absolutely nothing, except, perhaps, if
they've been very attentive, a dozen--no, I'll grant you twenty--one
score of totally unrelated Latin tags which any child of twelve could
have absorbed in two terms.'
'But--but can't you realise that if our system brings later--at any
rate--at a pinch--a simple understanding--grammar and Latinity apart--a
mere glimpse of the significance (foul word!) of, we'll say, one Ode of
Horace, one twenty lines of Virgil, we've got what we poor devils of
ushers are striving after?'
'And what might that be?' said Hartopp.
'Balance, proportion, perspective--life. Your scientific man is the
unrelated animal--the beast without background. Haven't you ever
realised _that_ in your atmosphere of stinks?'
'Meantime you make them lose life for the sake of living, eh?'
'Blind again, Hartopp! I told you about Paddy's quotation this morning.
(But he made _probrosis_ a verb, he did!) You yourself heard young
Corkran's reference to _maerentes amicos_. It sticks--a little of it
sticks among the barbarians.'
'Absolutely and essentially Chinese,' said little Hartopp, who, alone of
the common-room, refused to be outfaced by King. 'But I don't yet
understand how Paddy came to be licked by Winton. Paddy's supposed to be
something of a boxer.'
'Beware of vinegar made from honey,' King replied. 'Pater, like some
other people, is patient and long-suffering, but he has his limits. The
Head is oppressing him damnably, too. As I pointed out, the boy has
practically been in the First Fifteen since term began.'
'But, my dear fellow, I've known you give a boy an impot and refuse him
leave off games, again and again.'
'Ah, but that was when there was real need to get at some oaf who
couldn't be sensitised in any other way. Now, in our esteemed Head's
action I see nothing but--'
The conversation from this point does not concern us.
Meantime Winton, very penitent and especially polite towards Vernon, was
being cheered with cocoa in Number Five Study. They had some difficulty
in stemming the flood of his apologies. He himself pointed out to Vernon
that he had attacked a sub-prefect for no reason whatever, and,
therefore, deserved official punishment.
'I can't think what was the matter with me to-day,' he mourned. 'Ever
since that blasted mouse-business--'
'Well, then, don't think,' said Stalky. 'Or do you want Paddy to make a
row about it before all the school?'
Here Vernon was understood to say that he would see Winton and all the
school somewhere else.
'And if you imagine Perowne and Malpass and me are goin' to give
evidence at a prefects' meeting just to soothe your beastly conscience,
you jolly well err,' said Beetle. 'I know what you did.'
'What?' croaked Pater, out of the valley of his humiliation.
'You went Berserk. I've read all about it in _Hypatia_.'
'What's "going Berserk"?' Winton asked.
'Never you mind,' was the reply. 'Now, don't you feel awfully weak and
'I _am_ rather tired,' said Winton, sighing.
'That's what you ought to be. You've gone Berserk and pretty soon you'll
go to sleep. But you'll probably be liable to fits of it all your life,'
Beetle concluded. ''Shouldn't wonder if you murdered some one some day.'
'Shut up--you and your Berserks!' said Stalky. 'Go to Mullins now and
get it over, Pater.'
'I call it filthy unjust of the Head,' said Vernon. 'Anyhow, you've
given me my lickin', old man. I hope Pot'll give you yours.'
'I'm awfully sorry--awfully sorry,' was Winton's last word.
It was the custom in that consulship to deal with games' defaulters
between five o'clock call-over and tea. Mullins, who was old enough to
pity, did not believe in letting boys wait through the night till the
chill of the next morning for their punishments. He was finishing off
the last of the small fry and their excuses when Winton arrived.
'But, please, Mullins'--this was Babcock tertius, a dear little
twelve-year-old mother's darling--'I had an awful hack on the knee. I've
been to the Matron about it and she gave me some iodine. I've been
rubbing it in all day. I thought that would be an excuse off.'
'Let's have a look at it,' said the impassive Mullins. 'That's a
shin-bruise--about a week old. Touch your toes. I'll give you
Babcock yelled loudly as he had many times before. The face of Jevons,
aged eleven, a new boy that dark wet term, low in the House, low in the
Lower School, and lowest of all in his home-sick little mind turned
white at the horror of the sight. They could hear his working lips part
stickily as Babcock wailed his way out of hearing.
'Hullo, Jevons! What brings you here?' said Mullins.
'Pl-ease, sir, I went for a walk with Babcock tertius.'
'Did you? Then I bet you went to the tuck-shop--and you paid, didn't
A nod. Jevons was too terrified to speak.
'Of course, and I bet Babcock told you that old Pot 'ud let you off
because it was the first time.'
Another nod with a ghost of a smile in it.
'All right.' Mullins picked Jevons up before he could guess what was
coming, laid him on the table with one hand, with the other gave him
three emphatic spanks, then held him high in air.
'Now you tell Babcock tertius that he's got you a licking from me, and
see you jolly well pay it back to him. And when you're prefect of games
don't you let any one shirk his footer without a written excuse. Where
d'you play in your game?'
'You can do better than that. I've seen you run like a young
buck-rabbit. Ask Dickson from me to try you as three-quarter next game,
will you? Cut along.'
Jevons left, warm for the first time that day, enormously set up in his
own esteem, and very hot against the deceitful Babcock.
Mullins turned to Winton. 'Your name's on the list, Pater.' Winton
'I know it. The Head landed me with an impot for that mouse-business at
mechanical drawing. No excuse.'
'He meant it then?' Mullins jerked his head delicately towards the
ground-ash on the table. 'I heard something about it.'
Winton nodded. 'A rotten thing to do,' he said. 'Can't think what I was
doing ever to do it. It counts against a fellow so; and there's some
'All right, Pater. Just stand clear of our photo-bracket, will you?'
The little formality over, there was a pause. Winton swung round, yawned
in Pot's astonished face and staggered towards the window-seat.
'What's the matter with you, Dick? Ill?'
'No. Perfectly all right, thanks. Only--only a little sleepy.' Winton
stretched himself out, and then and there fell deeply and
'It isn't a faint,' said the experienced Mullins, 'or his pulse wouldn't
act. 'Tisn't a fit or he'd snort and twitch. It can't be sunstroke, this
term, and he hasn't been over-training for anything.' He opened Winton's
collar, packed a cushion under his head, threw a rug over him and sat
down to listen to the regular breathing. Before long Stalky arrived, on
pretence of borrowing a book. He looked at the window-seat.
''Noticed anything wrong with Winton lately?' said Mullins.
''Notice anything wrong with my beak?' Stalky replied. 'Pater went
Berserk after call-over, and fell on a lot of us for jesting with him
about his impot. You ought to see Malpass's eye.'
'You mean that Pater fought?' said Mullins.
'Like a devil. Then he nearly went to sleep in our study just now. I
expect he'll be all right when he wakes up. Rummy business!
Conscientious old bargee. You ought to have heard his apologies.'
'But Pater can't fight one little bit,' Mullins repeated.
''Twasn't fighting. He just tried to murder every one.' Stalky described
the affair, and when he left Mullins went off to take counsel with the
Head, who, out of a cloud of blue smoke, told him that all would yet
'Winton,' said he, 'is a little stiff in his moral joints. He'll get
over that. If he asks you whether to-day's doings will count against
him in his--'
'But you know it's important to him, sir. His people aren't--very well
off,' said Mullins.
'That's why I'm taking all this trouble. You must reassure him, Pot. I
have overcrowded him with new experiences. Oh, by the way, has his
'It came at dinner, sir.' Mullins laughed.
Sure enough, when he waked at tea-time, Winton proposed to take Mullins
all through every one of his day's lapses from grace, and 'Do you think
it will count against me?' said he.
'Don't you fuss so much about yourself and your silly career,' said
Mullins. 'You're all right. And oh--here's your First Cap at last. Shove
it up on the bracket and come on to tea.'
They met King on their way, stepping statelily and rubbing his hands. 'I
have applied,' said he, 'for the services of an additional sub-prefect
in Carton's unlamented absence. Your name, Winton, seems to have found
favour with the powers that be, and--and all things considered--I am
disposed to give my support to the nomination. You are therefore a
'Then it didn't count against me,' Winton gasped as soon as they were
out of hearing.
A Captain of Games can jest with a sub-prefect publicly.
'You utter ass!' said Mullins, and caught him by the back of his stiff
neck and ran him down to the hall where the sub-prefects, who sit below
the salt, made him welcome with the economical bloater-paste
King and little Hartopp were sparring in the Reverend John Gillett's
study at 10 P.M.--classical _versus_ modern as usual.
'Character--proportion--background,' snarled King. 'That is the essence
of the Humanities.'
'Analects of Confucius,' little Hartopp answered.
'Time,' said the Reverend John behind the soda-water. 'You men oppress
me. Hartopp, what did you say to Paddy in your dormitories to-night?
Even _you_ couldn't have overlooked his face.'
'But I did,' said Hartopp calmly. 'I wasn't even humorous about it as
some clerics might have been. I went straight through and said naught.'
'Poor Paddy! Now, for my part,' said King, 'and you know I am not lavish
in my praises, I consider Winton a first-class type; absolutely
'Ha-ardly,' said the Reverend John. 'First-class of the second class, I
admit. The very best type of second class but'--he shook his head--'it
should have been a rat. Pater'll never be anything more than a Colonel
'What do you base that verdict on?' said King stiffly.
'He came to me after prayers--with all his conscience.'
'Poor old Pater. Was it the mouse?' said little Hartopp.
'That, and what he called his uncontrollable temper, and his
responsibilities as sub-prefect.'
'If we had had what is vulgarly called a pi-jaw he'd have had
hysterics. So I recommended a dose of Epsom salts. He'll take it,
too--conscientiously. Don't eat me, King. Perhaps, he'll be a K.C.B.'
Ten o'clock struck and the Army class boys in the further studies coming
to their houses after an hour's extra work passed along the gravel path
below. Some one was chanting, to the tune of 'White sand and grey sand,'
_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_. He stopped outside Mullins' study.
They heard Mullins' window slide up and then Stalky's voice:
'Ah! Good-evening, Mullins, my _barbarus tortor_. We're the waits. We
have come to inquire after the local Berserk. Is he doin' as well as can
be expected in his new caree-ah?'
'Better than you will, in a sec, Stalky,' Mullins grunted.
'Glad of that. We thought he'd like to know that Paddy has been carried
to the sick-house in ravin' delirium. They think it's concussion of
'Why, he was all right at prayers,' Winton began earnestly, and they
heard a laugh in the background as Mullins slammed down the window.
''Night, Regulus,' Stalky sang out, and the light footsteps went on.
'You see. It sticks. A little of it sticks among the barbarians,' said
'Amen,' said the Reverend John. 'Go to bed.'
HORACE, Bk. V. _Ode 3_
There are whose study is of smells,
And to attentive schools rehearse
How something mixed with something else
Makes something worse.
Some cultivate in broths impure
The clients of our body--these,
Increasing without Venus, cure,
Or cause, disease.
Others the heated wheel extol,
And all its offspring, whose concern
Is how to make it farthest roll
And fastest turn.
Me, much incurious if the hour
Present, or to be paid for, brings
Me to Brundusium by the power
Of wheels or wings;
Me, in whose breast no flame hath burned
Life-long, save that by Pindar lit,
Such lore leaves cold: I am not turned
Aside to it
More than when, sunk in thought profound
Of what the unaltering Gods require,
My steward (friend but slave) brings round
Logs for my fire.