The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse
VII. "With the Compliments of the League".
Trevor went and looked.
It was rather an interesting sight. An earthquake or a cyclone might have made it a little more picturesque, but not much more. The general effect was not unlike that of an American saloon, after a visit from Mrs Carrie Nation (with hatchet). As in the case of Mill's study, the only thing that did not seem to have suffered any great damage was the table. Everything else looked rather off colour. The mantelpiece had been swept as bare as a bone, and its contents littered the floor. Trevor dived among the debris and retrieved the latest addition to his art gallery, the photograph of this year's first fifteen. It was a wreck. The glass was broken and the photograph itself slashed with a knife till most of the faces were unrecognisable. He picked up another treasure, last year's first eleven. Smashed glass again. Faces cut about with knife as before. His collection of snapshots was torn into a thousand fragments, though, as Mr Jerome said of the papier-mache trout, there may only have been nine hundred. He did not count them. His bookshelf was empty. The books had gone to swell the contents of the floor. There was a Shakespeare with its cover off. Pages twenty-two to thirty-one of Vice Versa had parted from the parent establishment, and were lying by themselves near the door. _The Rogues' March_ lay just beyond them, and the look of the cover suggested that somebody had either been biting it or jumping on it with heavy boots.
There was other damage. Over the mantelpiece in happier days had hung a dozen sea gulls' eggs, threaded on a string. The string was still there, as good as new, but of the eggs nothing was to be seen, save a fine parti-coloured powder--on the floor, like everything else in the study. And a good deal of ink had been upset in one place and another.
Trevor had been staring at the ruins for some time, when he looked up to see Clowes standing in the doorway.
"Hullo," said Clowes, "been tidying up?"
Trevor made a few hasty comments on the situation. Clowes listened approvingly.
"Don't you think," he went on, eyeing the study with a critical air, "that you've got too many things on the floor, and too few anywhere else? And I should move some of those books on to the shelf, if I were you."
Trevor breathed very hard.
"I should like to find the chap who did this," he said softly.
Clowes advanced into the room and proceeded to pick up various misplaced articles of furniture in a helpful way.
"I thought so," he said presently, "come and look here."
Tied to a chair, exactly as it had been in the case of Mill, was a neat white card, and on it were the words, _"With the Compliments of the League"._
"What are you going to do about this?" asked Clowes. "Come into my room and talk it over."
"I'll tidy this place up first," said Trevor. He felt that the work would be a relief. "I don't want people to see this. It mustn't get about. I'm not going to have my study turned into a sort of side-show, like Mill's. You go and change. I shan't be long."
"I will never desert Mr Micawber," said Clowes. "Friend, my place is by your side. Shut the door and let's get to work."
Ten minutes later the room had resumed a more or less--though principally less--normal appearance. The books and chairs were back in their places. The ink was sopped up. The broken photographs were stacked in a neat pile in one corner, with a rug over them. The mantelpiece was still empty, but, as Clowes pointed out, it now merely looked as if Trevor had been pawning some of his household gods. There was no sign that a devastating secret society had raged through the study.
Then they adjourned to Clowes' study, where Trevor sank into Clowes' second-best chair--Clowes, by an adroit movement, having appropriated the best one--with a sigh of enjoyment. Running and passing, followed by the toil of furniture-shifting, had made him feel quite tired.
"It doesn't look so bad now," he said, thinking of the room they had left. "By the way, what did you do with that card?"
"Here it is. Want it?"
"You can keep it. I don't want it."
"Thanks. If this sort of things goes on, I shall get quite a nice collection of these cards. Start an album some day."
"You know," said Trevor, "this is getting serious."
"It always does get serious when anything bad happens to one's self. It always strikes one as rather funny when things happen to other people. When Mill's study was wrecked, I bet you regarded it as an amusing and original 'turn'. What do you think of the present effort?"
"Who on earth can have done it?"
"Oh, dry up. Of course it was. But who the blazes is he?"
"Nay, children, you have me there," quoted Clowes. "I'll tell you one thing, though. You remember what I said about it's probably being Rand-Brown. He can't have done this, that's certain, because he was out in the fields the whole time. Though I don't see who else could have anything to gain by Barry not getting his colours."
"There's no reason to suspect him at all, as far as I can see. I don't know much about him, bar the fact that he can't play footer for nuts, but I've never heard anything against him. Have you?"
"I scarcely know him myself. He isn't liked in Seymour's, I believe."
"Well, anyhow, this can't be his work."
"That's what I said."
"For all we know, the League may have got their knife into Barry for some reason. You said they used to get their knife into fellows in that way. Anyhow, I mean to find out who ragged my room."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea," said Clowes.
* * * * *
O'Hara came round to Donaldson's before morning school next day to tell Trevor that he had not yet succeeded in finding the lost bat. He found Trevor and Clowes in the former's den, trying to put a few finishing touches to the same.
"Hullo, an' what's up with your study?" he inquired. He was quick at noticing things. Trevor looked annoyed. Clowes asked the visitor if he did not think the study presented a neat and gentlemanly appearance.
"Where are all your photographs, Trevor?" persisted the descendant of Irish kings.
"It's no good trying to conceal anything from the bhoy," said Clowes. "Sit down, O'Hara--mind that chair; it's rather wobbly--and I will tell ye the story."
"Can you keep a thing dark?" inquired Trevor.
O'Hara protested that tombs were not in it.
"Well, then, do you remember what happened to Mill's study? That's what's been going on here."
O'Hara nearly fell off his chair with surprise. That some philanthropist should rag Mill's study was only to be expected. Mill was one of the worst. A worm without a saving grace. But Trevor! Captain of football! In the first eleven! The thing was unthinkable.
"But who--?" he began.
"That's just what I want to know," said Trevor, shortly. He did not enjoy discussing the affair.
"How long have you been at Wrykyn, O'Hara?" said Clowes.
O'Hara made a rapid calculation. His fingers twiddled in the air as he worked out the problem.
"Six years," he said at last, leaning back exhausted with brain work.
"Then you must remember the League?"
"Remember the League? Rather."
"Well, it's been revived."
"This'll liven the old place up," he said. "I've often thought of reviving it meself. An' so has Moriarty. If it's anything like the Old League, there's going to be a sort of Donnybrook before it's done with. I wonder who's running it this time."
"We should like to know that. If you find out, you might tell us."
"And don't tell anybody else," said Trevor. "This business has got to be kept quiet. Keep it dark about my study having been ragged."
"I won't tell a soul."
"Not even Moriarty."
"Oh, hang it, man," put in Clowes, "you don't want to kill the poor bhoy, surely? You must let him tell one person."
"All right," said Trevor, "you can tell Moriarty. But nobody else, mind."
O'Hara promised that Moriarty should receive the news exclusively.
"But why did the League go for ye?"
"They happen to be down on me. It doesn't matter why. They are."
"I see," said O'Hara. "Oh," he added, "about that bat. The search is being 'vigorously prosecuted'--that's a newspaper quotation--"
"Times?" inquired Clowes.
"Wrykyn Patriot," said O'Hara, pulling out a bundle of letters. He inspected each envelope in turn, and from the fifth extracted a newspaper cutting.
"Read that," he said.
It was from the local paper, and ran as follows:--
"Hooligan Outrage--A painful sensation has been caused in the town by a deplorable ebullition of local Hooliganism, which has resulted in the wanton disfigurement of the splendid statue of Sir Eustace Briggs which stands in the New Recreation Grounds. Our readers will recollect that the statue was erected to commemorate the return of Sir Eustace as member for the borough of Wrykyn, by an overwhelming majority, at the last election. Last Tuesday some youths of the town, passing through the Recreation Grounds early in the morning, noticed that the face and body of the statue were completely covered with leaves and some black substance, which on examination proved to be tar. They speedily lodged information at the police station. Everything seems to point to party spite as the motive for the outrage. In view of the forth-coming election, such an act is highly significant, and will serve sufficiently to indicate the tactics employed by our opponents. The search for the perpetrator (or perpetrators) of the dastardly act is being vigorously prosecuted, and we learn with satisfaction that the police have already several clues."
"Clues!" said Clowes, handing back the paper, "that means _the bat_. That gas about 'our opponents' is all a blind to put you off your guard. You wait. There'll be more painful sensations before you've finished with this business."
"They can't have found the bat, or why did they not say so?" observed O'Hara.
"Guile," said Clowes, "pure guile. If I were you, I should escape while I could. Try Callao. There's no extradition there.
'On no petition Is extradition Allowed in Callao.'
Either of you chaps coming over to school?"