The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse
VI. Trevor Remains Firm.
The most immediate effect of telling anybody not to do a thing is to make him do it, in order to assert his independence. Trevor's first act on receipt of the letter was to include Barry in the team against the Town. It was what he would have done in any case, but, under the circumstances, he felt a peculiar pleasure in doing it. The incident also had the effect of recalling to his mind the fact that he had tried Barry in the first instance on his own responsibility, without consulting the committee. The committee of the first fifteen consisted of the two old colours who came immediately after the captain on the list. The powers of a committee varied according to the determination and truculence of the members of it. On any definite and important step, affecting the welfare of the fifteen, the captain theoretically could not move without their approval. But if the captain happened to be strong-minded and the committee weak, they were apt to be slightly out of it, and the captain would develop a habit of consulting them a day or so after he had done a thing. He would give a man his colours, and inform the committee of it on the following afternoon, when the thing was done and could not be repealed.
Trevor was accustomed to ask the advice of his lieutenants fairly frequently. He never gave colours, for instance, off his own bat. It seemed to him that it might be as well to learn what views Milton and Allardyce had on the subject of Barry, and, after the Town team had gone back across the river, defeated by a goal and a try to nil, he changed and went over to Seymour's to interview Milton.
Milton was in an arm-chair, watching Renford brew tea. His was one of the few studies in the school in which there was an arm-chair. With the majority of his contemporaries, it would only run to the portable kind that fold up.
"Come and have some tea, Trevor," said Milton.
"Thanks. If there's any going."
"Heaps. Is there anything to eat, Renford?"
The fag, appealed to on this important point, pondered darkly for a moment.
"There was some cake," he said.
"That's all right," interrupted Milton, cheerfully. "Scratch the cake. I ate it before the match. Isn't there anything else?"
Milton had a healthy appetite.
"Then there used to be some biscuits."
"Biscuits are off. I finished 'em yesterday. Look here, young Renford, what you'd better do is cut across to the shop and get some more cake and some more biscuits, and tell 'em to put it down to me. And don't be long."
"A miles better idea would be to send him over to Donaldson's to fetch something from my study," suggested Trevor. "It isn't nearly so far, and I've got heaps of stuff."
"Ripping. Cut over to Donaldson's, young Renford. As a matter of fact," he added, confidentially, when the emissary had vanished, "I'm not half sure that the other dodge would have worked. They seem to think at the shop that I've had about enough things on tick lately. I haven't settled up for last term yet. I've spent all I've got on this study. What do you think of those photographs?"
Trevor got up and inspected them. They filled the mantelpiece and most of the wall above it. They were exclusively theatrical photographs, and of a variety to suit all tastes. For the earnest student of the drama there was Sir Henry Irving in The Bells, and Mr Martin Harvey in The Only Way. For the admirers of the merely beautiful there were Messrs Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell.
"Not bad," said Trevor. "Beastly waste of money."
"Waste of money!" Milton was surprised and pained at the criticism. "Why, you must spend your money on something."
"Rot, I call it," said Trevor. "If you want to collect something, why don't you collect something worth having?"
Just then Renford came back with the supplies.
"Thanks," said Milton, "put 'em down. Does the billy boil, young Renford?"
Renford asked for explanatory notes.
"You're a bit of an ass at times, aren't you?" said Milton, kindly. "What I meant was, is the tea ready? If it is, you can scoot. If it isn't, buck up with it."
A sound of bubbling and a rush of steam from the spout of the kettle proclaimed that the billy did boil. Renford extinguished the Etna, and left the room, while Milton, murmuring vague formulae about "one spoonful for each person and one for the pot", got out of his chair with a groan--for the Town match had been an energetic one--and began to prepare tea.
"What I really came round about--" began Trevor.
"Half a second. I can't find the milk."
He went to the door, and shouted for Renford. On that overworked youth's appearance, the following dialogue took place.
"Where's the milk?"
"There isn't any." This in a tone not untinged with triumph, as if the speaker realised that here was a distinct score to him.
"You never had any."
"Well, just cut across--no, half a second. What are you doing downstairs?"
"Then you've got milk."
"Only a little." This apprehensively.
"Bring it up. You can have what we leave."
Disgusted retirement of Master Renford.
"What I really came about," said Trevor again, "was business."
"Colours?" inquired Milton, rummaging in the tin for biscuits with sugar on them. "Good brand of biscuit you keep, Trevor."
"Yes. I think we might give Alexander and Parker their third."
"All right. Any others?"
"Barry his second, do you think?"
"Rather. He played a good game today. He's an improvement on Rand-Brown."
"Glad you think so. I was wondering whether it was the right thing to do, chucking Rand-Brown out after one trial like that. But still, if you think Barry's better--"
"Streets better. I've had heaps of chances of watching them and comparing them, when they've been playing for the house. It isn't only that Rand-Brown can't tackle, and Barry can. Barry takes his passes much better, and doesn't lose his head when he's pressed."
"Just what I thought," said Trevor. "Then you'd go on playing him for the first?"
"Rather. He'll get better every game, you'll see, as he gets more used to playing in the first three-quarter line. And he's as keen as anything on getting into the team. Practises taking passes and that sort of thing every day."
"Well, he'll get his colours if we lick Ripton."
"We ought to lick them. They've lost one of their forwards, Clifford, a red-haired chap, who was good out of touch. I don't know if you remember him."
"I suppose I ought to go and see Allardyce about these colours, now. Good-bye."
There was running and passing on the Monday for every one in the three teams. Trevor and Clowes met Mr Seymour as they were returning. Mr Seymour was the football master at Wrykyn.
"I see you've given Barry his second, Trevor."
"I think you're wise to play him for the first. He knows the game, which is the great thing, and he will improve with practice," said Mr Seymour, thus corroborating Milton's words of the previous Saturday.
"I'm glad Seymour thinks Barry good," said Trevor, as they walked on. "I shall go on playing him now."
"Found out who wrote that letter yet?"
"Not yet," he said.
"Probably Rand-Brown," suggested Clowes. "He's the man who would gain most by Barry's not playing. I hear he had a row with Mill just before his study was ragged."
"Everybody in Seymour's has had rows with Mill some time or other," said Trevor.
Clowes stopped at the door of the junior day-room to find his fag. Trevor went on upstairs. In the passage he met Ruthven.
Ruthven seemed excited.
"I say. Trevor," he exclaimed, "have you seen your study?"
"Why, what's the matter with it?"
"You'd better go and look."