Mike: A Public School Story



There is only one thing to be said in favour of detention on a fine summer’s afternoon, and that is that it is very pleasant to come out of.  The sun never seems so bright or the turf so green as during the first five minutes after one has come out of the detention-room.  One feels as if one were entering a new and very delightful world.  There is also a touch of the Rip van Winkle feeling.  Everything seems to have gone on and left one behind.  Mike, as he walked to the cricket field, felt very much behind the times.

Arriving on the field he found the Old Boys batting.  He stopped and watched an over of Adair’s.  The fifth ball bowled a man.  Mike made his way towards the pavilion.

Before he got there he heard his name called, and turning, found Psmith seated under a tree with the bright-blazered Dunster.

“Return of the exile,” said Psmith.  “A joyful occasion tinged with melancholy.  Have a cherry?—­take one or two.  These little acts of unremembered kindness are what one needs after a couple of hours in extra pupil-room.  Restore your tissues, Comrade Jackson, and when you have finished those, apply again.”

“Is your name Jackson?” inquired Dunster, “because Jellicoe wants to see you.”

“Alas, poor Jellicoe!” said Psmith.  “He is now prone on his bed in the dormitory—­there a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Jellicoe, the darling of the crew, faithful below he did his duty, but Comrade Dunster has broached him to.  I have just been hearing the melancholy details.”

“Old Smith and I,” said Dunster, “were at a private school together.  I’d no idea I should find him here.”

“It was a wonderfully stirring sight when we met,” said Psmith; “not unlike the meeting of Ulysses and the hound Argos, of whom you have doubtless read in the course of your dabblings in the classics.  I was Ulysses; Dunster gave a life-like representation of the faithful dawg.”

“You still jaw as much as ever, I notice,” said the animal delineator, fondling the beginnings of his moustache.

“More,” sighed Psmith, “more.  Is anything irritating you?” he added, eyeing the other’s manoeuvres with interest.

“You needn’t be a funny ass, man,” said Dunster, pained; “heaps of people tell me I ought to have it waxed.”

“What it really wants is top-dressing with guano.  Hullo! another man out.  Adair’s bowling better to-day than he did yesterday.”

“I heard about yesterday,” said Dunster.  “It must have been a rag!  Couldn’t we work off some other rag on somebody before I go?  I shall be stopping here till Monday in the village.  Well hit, sir—­Adair’s bowling is perfectly simple if you go out to it.”

“Comrade Dunster went out to it first ball,” said Psmith to Mike.

“Oh! chuck it, man; the sun was in my eyes.  I hear Adair’s got a match on with the M.C.C. at last.”

“Has he?” said Psmith; “I hadn’t heard.  Archaeology claims so much of my time that I have little leisure for listening to cricket chit-chat.”

“What was it Jellicoe wanted?” asked Mike; “was it anything important?”

“He seemed to think so—­he kept telling me to tell you to go and see him.”

“I fear Comrade Jellicoe is a bit of a weak-minded blitherer——­”

“Did you ever hear of a rag we worked off on Jellicoe once?” asked Dunster.  “The man has absolutely no sense of humour—­can’t see when he’s being rotted.  Well it was like this—­Hullo!  We’re all out—­I shall have to be going out to field again, I suppose, dash it!  I’ll tell you when I see you again.”

“I shall count the minutes,” said Psmith.

Mike stretched himself; the sun was very soothing after his two hours in the detention-room; he felt disinclined for exertion.

“I don’t suppose it’s anything special about Jellicoe, do you?” he said.  “I mean, it’ll keep till tea-time; it’s no catch having to sweat across to the house now.”

“Don’t dream of moving,” said Psmith.  “I have several rather profound observations on life to make and I can’t make them without an audience.  Soliloquy is a knack.  Hamlet had got it, but probably only after years of patient practice.  Personally, I need some one to listen when I talk.  I like to feel that I am doing good.  You stay where you are—­don’t interrupt too much.”

Mike tilted his hat over his eyes and abandoned Jellicoe.

It was not until the lock-up bell rang that he remembered him.  He went over to the house and made his way to the dormitory, where he found the injured one in a parlous state, not so much physical as mental.  The doctor had seen his ankle and reported that it would be on the active list in a couple of days.  It was Jellicoe’s mind that needed attention now.

Mike found him in a condition bordering on collapse.

“I say, you might have come before!” said Jellicoe.

“What’s up?  I didn’t know there was such a hurry about it—­what did you want?”

“It’s no good now,” said Jellicoe gloomily; “it’s too late, I shall get sacked.”

“What on earth are you talking about?  What’s the row?”

“It’s about that money.”

“What about it?”

“I had to pay it to a man to-day, or he said he’d write to the Head—­then of course I should get sacked.  I was going to take the money to him this afternoon, only I got crocked, so I couldn’t move.  I wanted to get hold of you to ask you to take it for me—­it’s too late now!”

Mike’s face fell.  “Oh, hang it!” he said, “I’m awfully sorry.  I’d no idea it was anything like that—­what a fool I was!  Dunster did say he thought it was something important, only like an ass I thought it would do if I came over at lock-up.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Jellicoe miserably; “it can’t be helped.”

“Yes, it can,” said Mike.  “I know what I’ll do—­it’s all right.  I’ll get out of the house after lights-out.”

Jellicoe sat up.  “You can’t!  You’d get sacked if you were caught.”

“Who would catch me?  There was a chap at Wrykyn I knew who used to break out every night nearly and go and pot at cats with an air-pistol; it’s as easy as anything.”

The toad-under-the-harrow expression began to fade from Jellicoe’s face.  “I say, do you think you could, really?”

“Of course I can!  It’ll be rather a rag.”

“I say, it’s frightfully decent of you.”

“What absolute rot!”

“But, look here, are you certain——­”

“I shall be all right.  Where do you want me to go?”

“It’s a place about a mile or two from here, called Lower Borlock.”

“Lower Borlock?”

“Yes, do you know it?”

“Rather!  I’ve been playing cricket for them all the term.”

“I say, have you?  Do you know a man called Barley?”

“Barley?  Rather—­he runs the ’White Boar’.”

“He’s the chap I owe the money to.”

“Old Barley!”

Mike knew the landlord of the “White Boar” well; he was the wag of the village team.  Every village team, for some mysterious reason, has its comic man.  In the Lower Borlock eleven Mr. Barley filled the post.  He was a large, stout man, with a red and cheerful face, who looked exactly like the jovial inn-keeper of melodrama.  He was the last man Mike would have expected to do the “money by Monday-week or I write to the headmaster” business.

But he reflected that he had only seen him in his leisure moments, when he might naturally be expected to unbend and be full of the milk of human kindness.  Probably in business hours he was quite different.  After all, pleasure is one thing and business another.

Besides, five pounds is a large sum of money, and if Jellicoe owed it, there was nothing strange in Mr. Barley’s doing everything he could to recover it.

He wondered a little what Jellicoe could have been doing to run up a bill as big as that, but it did not occur to him to ask, which was unfortunate, as it might have saved him a good deal of inconvenience.  It seemed to him that it was none of his business to inquire into Jellicoe’s private affairs.  He took the envelope containing the money without question.

“I shall bike there, I think,” he said, “if I can get into the shed.”

The school’s bicycles were stored in a shed by the pavilion.

“You can manage that,” said Jellicoe; “it’s locked up at night, but I had a key made to fit it last summer, because I used to go out in the early morning sometimes before it was opened.”

“Got it on you?”

“Smith’s got it.”

“I’ll get it from him.”

“I say!”


“Don’t tell Smith why you want it, will you?  I don’t want anybody to know—­if a thing once starts getting about it’s all over the place in no time.”

“All right, I won’t tell him.”

“I say, thanks most awfully!  I don’t know what I should have done, I——­”

“Oh, chuck it!” said Mike.



Mike started on his ride to Lower Borlock with mixed feelings.  It is pleasant to be out on a fine night in summer, but the pleasure is to a certain extent modified when one feels that to be detected will mean expulsion.

Mike did not want to be expelled, for many reasons.  Now that he had grown used to the place he was enjoying himself at Sedleigh to a certain extent.  He still harboured a feeling of resentment against the school in general and Adair in particular, but it was pleasant in Outwood’s now that he had got to know some of the members of the house, and he liked playing cricket for Lower Borlock; also, he was fairly certain that his father would not let him go to Cambridge if he were expelled from Sedleigh.  Mr. Jackson was easy-going with his family, but occasionally his foot came down like a steam-hammer, as witness the Wrykyn school report affair.

So Mike pedalled along rapidly, being wishful to get the job done without delay.

Psmith had yielded up the key, but his inquiries as to why it was needed had been embarrassing.  Mike’s statement that he wanted to get up early and have a ride had been received by Psmith, with whom early rising was not a hobby, with honest amazement and a flood of advice and warning on the subject.

“One of the Georges,” said Psmith, “I forget which, once said that a certain number of hours’ sleep a day—­I cannot recall for the moment how many—­made a man something, which for the time being has slipped my memory.  However, there you are.  I’ve given you the main idea of the thing; and a German doctor says that early rising causes insanity.  Still, if you’re bent on it——­” After which he had handed over the key.

Mike wished he could have taken Psmith into his confidence.  Probably he would have volunteered to come, too; Mike would have been glad of a companion.

It did not take him long to reach Lower Borlock.  The “White Boar” stood at the far end of the village, by the cricket field.  He rode past the church—­standing out black and mysterious against the light sky—­and the rows of silent cottages, until he came to the inn.

The place was shut, of course, and all the lights were out—­it was some time past eleven.

The advantage an inn has over a private house, from the point of view of the person who wants to get into it when it has been locked up, is that a nocturnal visit is not so unexpected in the case of the former.  Preparations have been made to meet such an emergency.  Where with a private house you would probably have to wander round heaving rocks and end by climbing up a water-spout, when you want to get into an inn you simply ring the night-bell, which, communicating with the boots’ room, has that hard-worked menial up and doing in no time.

After Mike had waited for a few minutes there was a rattling of chains and a shooting of bolts and the door opened.

“Yes, sir?” said the boots, appearing in his shirt-sleeves.  “Why, ’ullo!  Mr. Jackson, sir!”

Mike was well known to all dwellers in Lower Borlock, his scores being the chief topic of conversation when the day’s labours were over.

“I want to see Mr. Barley, Jack.”

“He’s bin in bed this half-hour back, Mr. Jackson.”

“I must see him.  Can you get him down?”

The boots looked doubtful.  “Roust the guv’nor outer bed?” he said.

Mike quite admitted the gravity of the task.  The landlord of the “White Boar” was one of those men who need a beauty sleep.

“I wish you would—­it’s a thing that can’t wait.  I’ve got some money to give to him.”

“Oh, if it’s that—­” said the boots.

Five minutes later mine host appeared in person, looking more than usually portly in a check dressing-gown and red bedroom slippers of the Dreadnought type.

“You can pop off, Jack.”

Exit boots to his slumbers once more.

“Well, Mr. Jackson, what’s it all about?”

“Jellicoe asked me to come and bring you the money.”

“The money?  What money?”

“What he owes you; the five pounds, of course.”

“The five—­” Mr. Barley stared open-mouthed at Mike for a moment; then he broke into a roar of laughter which shook the sporting prints on the wall and drew barks from dogs in some distant part of the house.  He staggered about laughing and coughing till Mike began to expect a fit of some kind.  Then he collapsed into a chair, which creaked under him, and wiped his eyes.

“Oh dear!” he said, “oh dear! the five pounds!”

Mike was not always abreast of the rustic idea of humour, and now he felt particularly fogged.  For the life of him he could not see what there was to amuse any one so much in the fact that a person who owed five pounds was ready to pay it back.  It was an occasion for rejoicing, perhaps, but rather for a solemn, thankful, eyes-raised-to-heaven kind of rejoicing.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Five pounds!”

“You might tell us the joke.”

Mr. Barley opened the letter, read it, and had another attack; when this was finished he handed the letter to Mike, who was waiting patiently by, hoping for light, and requested him to read it.

“Dear, dear!” chuckled Mr. Barley, “five pounds!  They may teach you young gentlemen to talk Latin and Greek and what not at your school, but it ’ud do a lot more good if they’d teach you how many beans make five; it ’ud do a lot more good if they’d teach you to come in when it rained, it ’ud do——­”

Mike was reading the letter.

“DEAR MR. BARLEY,” it ran.—­“I send the £5, which I could not get before.  I hope it is in time, because I don’t want you to write to the headmaster.  I am sorry Jane and John ate your wife’s hat and the chicken and broke the vase.”

There was some more to the same effect; it was signed “T.  G. Jellicoe.”

“What on earth’s it all about?” said Mike, finishing this curious document.

Mr. Barley slapped his leg.  “Why, Mr. Jellicoe keeps two dogs here; I keep ’em for him till the young gentlemen go home for their holidays.  Aberdeen terriers, they are, and as sharp as mustard.  Mischief!  I believe you, but, love us! they don’t do no harm!  Bite up an old shoe sometimes and such sort of things.  The other day, last Wednesday it were, about ’ar parse five, Jane—­she’s the worst of the two, always up to it, she is—­she got hold of my old hat and had it in bits before you could say knife.  John upset a china vase in one of the bedrooms chasing a mouse, and they got on the coffee-room table and ate half a cold chicken what had been left there.  So I says to myself, ’I’ll have a game with Mr. Jellicoe over this,’ and I sits down and writes off saying the little dogs have eaten a valuable hat and a chicken and what not, and the damage’ll be five pounds, and will he kindly remit same by Saturday night at the latest or I write to his headmaster.  Love us!” Mr. Barley slapped his thigh, “he took it all in, every word—­and here’s the five pounds in cash in this envelope here!  I haven’t had such a laugh since we got old Tom Raxley out of bed at twelve of a winter’s night by telling him his house was a-fire.”

It is not always easy to appreciate a joke of the practical order if one has been made even merely part victim of it.  Mike, as he reflected that he had been dragged out of his house in the middle of the night, in contravention of all school rules and discipline, simply in order to satisfy Mr. Barley’s sense of humour, was more inclined to be abusive than mirthful.  Running risks is all very well when they are necessary, or if one chooses to run them for one’s own amusement, but to be placed in a dangerous position, a position imperilling one’s chance of going to the ’Varsity, is another matter altogether.

But it is impossible to abuse the Barley type of man.  Barley’s enjoyment of the whole thing was so honest and child-like.  Probably it had given him the happiest quarter of an hour he had known for years, since, in fact, the affair of old Tom Raxley.  It would have been cruel to damp the man.

So Mike laughed perfunctorily, took back the envelope with the five pounds, accepted a stone ginger beer and a plateful of biscuits, and rode off on his return journey.

Mention has been made above of the difference which exists between getting into an inn after lock-up and into a private house.  Mike was to find this out for himself.

His first act on arriving at Sedleigh was to replace his bicycle in the shed.  This he accomplished with success.  It was pitch-dark in the shed, and as he wheeled his machine in, his foot touched something on the floor.  Without waiting to discover what this might be, he leaned his bicycle against the wall, went out, and locked the door, after which he ran across to Outwood’s.

Fortune had favoured his undertaking by decreeing that a stout drain-pipe should pass up the wall within a few inches of his and Psmith’s study.  On the first day of term, it may be remembered he had wrenched away the wooden bar which bisected the window-frame, thus rendering exit and entrance almost as simple as they had been for Wyatt during Mike’s first term at Wrykyn.

He proceeded to scale this water-pipe.

He had got about half-way up when a voice from somewhere below cried, “Who’s that?”



These things are Life’s Little Difficulties.  One can never tell precisely how one will act in a sudden emergency.  The right thing for Mike to have done at this crisis was to have ignored the voice, carried on up the water-pipe, and through the study window, and gone to bed.  It was extremely unlikely that anybody could have recognised him at night against the dark background of the house.  The position then would have been that somebody in Mr. Outwood’s house had been seen breaking in after lights-out; but it would have been very difficult for the authorities to have narrowed the search down any further than that.  There were thirty-four boys in Outwood’s, of whom about fourteen were much the same size and build as Mike.

The suddenness, however, of the call caused Mike to lose his head.  He made the strategic error of sliding rapidly down the pipe, and running.

There were two gates to Mr. Outwood’s front garden.  The carriage drive ran in a semicircle, of which the house was the centre.  It was from the right-hand gate, nearest to Mr. Downing’s house, that the voice had come, and, as Mike came to the ground, he saw a stout figure galloping towards him from that direction.  He bolted like a rabbit for the other gate.  As he did so, his pursuer again gave tongue.

“Oo-oo-oo yer!” was the exact remark.

Whereby Mike recognised him as the school sergeant.

“Oo-oo-oo yer!” was that militant gentleman’s habitual way of beginning a conversation.

With this knowledge, Mike felt easier in his mind.  Sergeant Collard was a man of many fine qualities, (notably a talent for what he was wont to call “spott’n,” a mysterious gift which he exercised on the rifle range), but he could not run.  There had been a time in his hot youth when he had sprinted like an untamed mustang in pursuit of volatile Pathans in Indian hill wars, but Time, increasing his girth, had taken from him the taste for such exercise.  When he moved now it was at a stately walk.  The fact that he ran to-night showed how the excitement of the chase had entered into his blood.

“Oo-oo-oo yer!” he shouted again, as Mike, passing through the gate, turned into the road that led to the school.  Mike’s attentive ear noted that the bright speech was a shade more puffily delivered this time.  He began to feel that this was not such bad fun after all.  He would have liked to be in bed, but, if that was out of the question, this was certainly the next best thing.

He ran on, taking things easily, with the sergeant panting in his wake, till he reached the entrance to the school grounds.  He dashed in and took cover behind a tree.

Presently the sergeant turned the corner, going badly and evidently cured of a good deal of the fever of the chase.  Mike heard him toil on for a few yards and then stop.  A sound of panting was borne to him.

Then the sound of footsteps returning, this time at a walk.  They passed the gate and went on down the road.

The pursuer had given the thing up.

Mike waited for several minutes behind his tree.  His programme now was simple.  He would give Sergeant Collard about half an hour, in case the latter took it into his head to “guard home” by waiting at the gate.  Then he would trot softly back, shoot up the water-pipe once more, and so to bed.  It had just struck a quarter to something—­twelve, he supposed—­on the school clock.  He would wait till a quarter past.

Meanwhile, there was nothing to be gained from lurking behind a tree.  He left his cover, and started to stroll in the direction of the pavilion.  Having arrived there, he sat on the steps, looking out on to the cricket field.

His thoughts were miles away, at Wrykyn, when he was recalled to Sedleigh by the sound of somebody running.  Focussing his gaze, he saw a dim figure moving rapidly across the cricket field straight for him.

His first impression, that he had been seen and followed, disappeared as the runner, instead of making for the pavilion, turned aside, and stopped at the door of the bicycle shed.  Like Mike, he was evidently possessed of a key, for Mike heard it grate in the lock.  At this point he left the pavilion and hailed his fellow rambler by night in a cautious undertone.

The other appeared startled.

“Who the dickens is that?” he asked.  “Is that you, Jackson?”

Mike recognised Adair’s voice.  The last person he would have expected to meet at midnight obviously on the point of going for a bicycle ride.

“What are you doing out here, Jackson?”

“What are you, if it comes to that?”

Adair was lighting his lamp.

“I’m going for the doctor.  One of the chaps in our house is bad.”


“What are you doing out here?”

“Just been for a stroll.”

“Hadn’t you better be getting back?”

“Plenty of time.”

“I suppose you think you’re doing something tremendously brave and dashing?”

“Hadn’t you better be going to the doctor?”

“If you want to know what I think——­”

“I don’t.  So long.”

Mike turned away, whistling between his teeth.  After a moment’s pause, Adair rode off.  Mike saw his light pass across the field and through the gate.  The school clock struck the quarter.

It seemed to Mike that Sergeant Collard, even if he had started to wait for him at the house, would not keep up the vigil for more than half an hour.  He would be safe now in trying for home again.

He walked in that direction.

Now it happened that Mr. Downing, aroused from his first sleep by the news, conveyed to him by Adair, that MacPhee, one of the junior members of Adair’s dormitory, was groaning and exhibiting other symptoms of acute illness, was disturbed in his mind.  Most housemasters feel uneasy in the event of illness in their houses, and Mr. Downing was apt to get jumpy beyond the ordinary on such occasions.  All that was wrong with MacPhee, as a matter of fact, was a very fair stomach-ache, the direct and legitimate result of eating six buns, half a cocoa-nut, three doughnuts, two ices, an apple, and a pound of cherries, and washing the lot down with tea.  But Mr. Downing saw in his attack the beginnings of some deadly scourge which would sweep through and decimate the house.  He had despatched Adair for the doctor, and, after spending a few minutes prowling restlessly about his room, was now standing at his front gate, waiting for Adair’s return.

It came about, therefore, that Mike, sprinting lightly in the direction of home and safety, had his already shaken nerves further maltreated by being hailed, at a range of about two yards, with a cry of “Is that you, Adair?” The next moment Mr. Downing emerged from his gate.

Mike stood not upon the order of his going.  He was off like an arrow—­a flying figure of Guilt.  Mr. Downing, after the first surprise, seemed to grasp the situation.  Ejaculating at intervals the words, “Who is that?  Stop!  Who is that?  Stop!” he dashed after the much-enduring Wrykynian at an extremely creditable rate of speed.  Mr. Downing was by way of being a sprinter.  He had won handicap events at College sports at Oxford, and, if Mike had not got such a good start, the race might have been over in the first fifty yards.  As it was, that victim of Fate, going well, kept ahead.  At the entrance to the school grounds he led by a dozen yards.  The procession passed into the field, Mike heading as before for the pavilion.

As they raced across the soft turf, an idea occurred to Mike which he was accustomed in after years to attribute to genius, the one flash of it which had ever illumined his life.

It was this.

One of Mr. Downing’s first acts, on starting the Fire Brigade at Sedleigh, had been to institute an alarm bell.  It had been rubbed into the school officially—­in speeches from the daïs—­by the headmaster, and unofficially—­in earnest private conversations—­by Mr. Downing, that at the sound of this bell, at whatever hour of day or night, every member of the school must leave his house in the quickest possible way, and make for the open.  The bell might mean that the school was on fire, or it might mean that one of the houses was on fire.  In any case, the school had its orders—­to get out into the open at once.

Nor must it be supposed that the school was without practice at this feat.  Every now and then a notice would be found posted up on the board to the effect that there would be fire drill during the dinner hour that day.  Sometimes the performance was bright and interesting, as on the occasion when Mr. Downing, marshalling the brigade at his front gate, had said, “My house is supposed to be on fire.  Now let’s do a record!” which the Brigade, headed by Stone and Robinson, obligingly did.  They fastened the hose to the hydrant, smashed a window on the ground floor (Mr. Downing having retired for a moment to talk with the headmaster), and poured a stream of water into the room.  When Mr. Downing was at liberty to turn his attention to the matter, he found that the room selected was his private study, most of the light furniture of which was floating on a miniature lake.  That episode had rather discouraged his passion for realism, and fire drill since then had taken the form, for the most part, of “practising escaping.”  This was done by means of canvas shoots, kept in the dormitories.  At the sound of the bell the prefect of the dormitory would heave one end of the shoot out of window, the other end being fastened to the sill.  He would then go down it himself, using his elbows as a brake.  Then the second man would follow his example, and these two, standing below, would hold the end of the shoot so that the rest of the dormitory could fly rapidly down it without injury, except to their digestions.

After the first novelty of the thing had worn off, the school had taken a rooted dislike to fire drill.  It was a matter for self-congratulation among them that Mr. Downing had never been able to induce the headmaster to allow the alarm bell to be sounded for fire drill at night.  The headmaster, a man who had his views on the amount of sleep necessary for the growing boy, had drawn the line at night operations.  “Sufficient unto the day” had been the gist of his reply.  If the alarm bell were to ring at night when there was no fire, the school might mistake a genuine alarm of fire for a bogus one, and refuse to hurry themselves.

So Mr. Downing had had to be content with day drill.

The alarm bell hung in the archway leading into the school grounds.  The end of the rope, when not in use, was fastened to a hook half-way up the wall.

Mike, as he raced over the cricket field, made up his mind in a flash that his only chance of getting out of this tangle was to shake his pursuer off for a space of time long enough to enable him to get to the rope and tug it.  Then the school would come out.  He would mix with them, and in the subsequent confusion get back to bed unnoticed.

The task was easier than it would have seemed at the beginning of the chase.  Mr. Downing, owing to the two facts that he was not in the strictest training, and that it is only an Alfred Shrubb who can run for any length of time at top speed shouting “Who is that?  Stop!  Who is that?  Stop!” was beginning to feel distressed.  There were bellows to mend in the Downing camp.  Mike perceived this, and forced the pace.  He rounded the pavilion ten yards to the good.  Then, heading for the gate, he put all he knew into one last sprint.  Mr. Downing was not equal to the effort.  He worked gamely for a few strides, then fell behind.  When Mike reached the gate, a good forty yards separated them.

As far as Mike could judge—­he was not in a condition to make nice calculations—­he had about four seconds in which to get busy with that bell rope.

Probably nobody has ever crammed more energetic work into four seconds than he did then.

The night was as still as only an English summer night can be, and the first clang of the clapper sounded like a million iron girders falling from a height on to a sheet of tin.  He tugged away furiously, with an eye on the now rapidly advancing and loudly shouting figure of the housemaster.

And from the darkened house beyond there came a gradually swelling hum, as if a vast hive of bees had been disturbed.

The school was awake.

1 of 2
2 of 2