Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Haviland's Chum, by Bertram Mitford.
HAVILAND'S CHUM, BY BERTRAM MITFORD.
THE NEW BOY.
"Hi! Blacky! Here - hold hard. D'you hear, Snowball?"
The last peremptorily. He thus addressed, paused, turned, and eyed
somewhat doubtfully, not without a tinge of apprehension, the group of
boys who thus hailed him.
"What's your name?" pursued the latter, "Caesar, Pompey, Snowball -
"Or Uncle Tom?" came another suggestion.
"I - new boy," was the response.
"New boy! Ugh!" jeered one fellow. "Time I left if they are going to
take niggers here. What's your name, sir - didn't you hear me ask?"
"Pookoo - how much?"
For answer the other merely emitted a click, which might have conveyed
contempt, disgust, defiance, or a little of all three. He was an
African lad of about fifteen, straight and lithe and well-formed, and
his skin was of a rich copper brown. But there was a clean-cut look
about the set of his head, and an almost entire absence of negro
development of nose and lips, which seemed to point to the fact that it
was with no inferior race aboriginal to the dark continent that he owned
Now a hoot was raised among the group, and there was a tendency to
hustle this very unwonted specimen of a new boy. He, however, took it
good-humouredly, exhibiting a magnificent set of teeth in a tolerant
grin. But the last speaker, a biggish, thick-set fellow who was
something of a bully, was not inclined to let him down so easily.
"Take off your hat, sir!" he cried, knocking it off the other's head, to
a distance of some yards. "Now, Mr Woollyhead, perhaps you'll answer
my question and tell us your name, or I shall have to see if some of
this'll come out." And, suiting the action to the word, he reached
forward and grabbed a handful of the other's short, crisp, jetty curls -
jerking his head backwards and forwards.
The African boy uttered a hoarse ejaculation in a strange tongue, and
his features worked with impotent passion. He could not break loose,
and his tormentor was taller and stronger than himself. He put up his
hands to free himself, but the greater his struggles the more the bully
jerked him by the wool, with a malignant laugh. The others laughed too,
enjoying the fun of what they regarded as a perfectly wholesome and
justifiable bout of nigger baiting.
But a laugh has an unpleasant knack of transferring itself to the other
side, and in this instance an interruption occurred - wholly
unlooked-for, but sharp and decisive, not to say violent, and to the
prime mover in the sport highly unpleasant - for it took the shape of a
hearty, swinging cuff on the side of that worthy's head. He, with a
howl that was half a curse, staggered a yard or two under the force of
the blow, at the same time loosing his hold of his victim. Then the
latter laughed - being the descendant of generations of savages - laughed
loud and maliciously.
"Confound it, Haviland, what's that for?" cried the smitten one, feeing
round upon his smiter.
"D'you want some more, Jarnley?" came the quick reply. "As it is I've a
great mind to have you up before the prefects' council for bullying a
"Prefects' council," repeated Jarnley with a sneer. "That's just it.
If you weren't a prefect, Haviland, I'd fight you. And you know it."
"But I don't know it and I don't think it," was the reply. The while,
something of a smothered hoot was audible among the now rapidly
increasing group, for Haviland, for reasons which will hereinafter
appear, was not exactly a popular prefect. It subsided however, as by
magic, when he darted a glance into the quarter whence it arose.
"Come here - you," he said, beckoning the cause of all the disturbance.
"What's your name?"
The African boy repeated it unhesitatingly, willingly. He was quick to
recognise the difference between constituted authority and the spurious
and usurped article - besides, here was one who had intervened to turn
the tables on his oppressor.
"Rum name that!" said his new questioner, eyeing him with some
curiosity, at the full-throated native vowels. "Haven't you got any
"Other? Oh, yes, Anthony. Missionary name me Anthony."
"Anthony? Well, that's better. We can get our tongues round that.
What are you, eh? Where d'you come from, I mean?"
"I'm a Zulu."
A murmur of real interest ran through the listeners. Not so many years
had passed since the dramatic episodes of '79 but that some of the
bigger boys there, including Haviland, were old enough to remember the
war news reaching English shores, while all were more or less familiar
with it in story. And here was one of that famous nationality among
them as a schoolfellow.
"Now look here, you fellows," said the prefect, when he had put a few
more questions to the newcomer. "This chap isn't to be bullied, d'you
see, because he doesn't happen to be like everybody else. Give him a
fair show and see what he's made of, and he'll come out all right I
"Please, Haviland, he cheeked Jarnley," cut in a smaller boy who was one
of the last-named's admirers.
"Small wonder if he did," was the uncompromising answer. "Now clear
inside all of you, for you're blocking the way, and it's time for
call-over. Who'll ring the bell for me?"
"I will!" shouted half a dozen voices; for Haviland was prefect of the
week, and as such responsible for the due ringing of the calling-over
bell, an office almost invariably performed by deputy. There was no
difficulty in finding such; incipient human nature being as willing to
oblige a very real potentate as the developed and matured article.
It was half term at Saint Kirwin's - which accounted for the arrival of a
new boy in the middle of the term. Now, Saint Kirwin's was not a
first-rate public school, but it was run as nearly as possible upon the
lines of one. We say as nearly as possible, because the material was so
essentially different. There was no such thing as the putting down of
names for the intending pupil, what time that interesting entity was in
the red and squalling phase of existence. At Saint Kirwin's they would
take anybody's son, provided the said anybody was respectable, and
professed to belong to the Established Church; and whereas the terms
were excessively moderate, well - they got anybody's son. There was,
however, a fair sprinkling of those who but for the shallowness of the
parental purse would have been at Eton or Harrow or some kindred
institution - among whom was Haviland, but the majority was composed of
those at whom the more venerable foundations would not have looked -
among whom was Jarnley. However, even these latter Saint Kirwin's
managed to lick into very tidy sort of shape.
The situation of the place left nothing to be desired. The school
buildings, long, high-gabled, drawn round two quadrangles, were
sufficiently picturesque to be in keeping with the beautiful pastoral
English scenery amid which they stood - green field and waving woodland
studded with hamlet and spire, undulating away to a higher range of bare
down in the background - all of which looked at its best this fair spring
afternoon, with the young leaves just budding, and the larks, soaring
overhead, pouring forth their volume of song.
As the calling-over bell jangled forth its loud, inexorable note,
upwards of three hundred and fifty boys, of all sorts and sizes, came
trooping towards the entrance from every direction - hot and ruddy from
the playing fields - here and there, an athletic master, in cricket
blazer, amid a group of bigger boys who had been bowling to him; others
dusty and panting after a long round across country in search of birds'
eggs - performed nearly all the time at a run - others again of a less
energetic disposition, cool and lounging, perchance just gulping down
some last morsels of "tuck" - all crowded in at the gates, and the cool
cloisters echoed with a very Babel of young voices as the restless
stream poured along to fill up the big schoolroom. Then might be heard
shouts of "Silence!" "Stop talking there!" "Don't let me have to tell
you again!" and so on - as the prefect in charge of each row of boys
stood, note-book in hand, ready to begin the "calling-over."
"I say, Haviland," said Laughton, the captain of the school, in a low
voice, "you're to go to the Doctor after call-over. I'm afraid you're
in for it, old chap."
"Why? What on earth about? I haven't been doing anything," answered
the other, in genuine surprise - "at least - " he added as a recollection
of the smack on the head he had administered to Jarnley occurred to him.
But no, it couldn't be that, for therein he had been strictly
discharging his duty.
"I don't know myself," rejoined Laughton. "He stopped me as I passed
him in the cloisters just now, and told me to tell you. He was looking
jolly glum too."
Another half-smothered shout or two of "Silence" interrupted them, and
then you might have heard a pin drop as the master of the week entered,
in this case the redoubtable "Head" himself, an imposing figure in his
square cap and flowing gown as he swept up to the great central desk,
and gave the signal for the calling-over to begin.
Haviland, shouting out name after name on his list, did so mechanically,
and his mind was very ill at ease. His conscience was absolutely clear
of any specific offence, but that was no great consolation, for the
Doctor's lynx eye had a knack of unearthing all sorts of unsuspected
delinquencies, prefects especially being visited with vicarious
penalties. That was it. He was going to suffer for the sins of
somebody else, and it was with the gloomiest of anticipations that he
closed his note-book and went up to make his report.
The Reverend Nicholas Bowen, D.D., headmaster of Saint Kirwin's, ruled
that institution with a sway that was absolutely and entirely despotic.
His aim was to model it on the lines of the greater public schools as
much as possible, and to this end his assistant staff were nearly all
university graduates, and more than half of them in Holy Orders. He was
a great believer in the prefectorial system, and those of the school
selected to carry it out were entrusted with large powers. On the other
hand, they were held mercilessly responsible even for unconscious
failures of duty, and on this ground alone the luckless Haviland had
ample cause for his misgivings.
The outward aspect, too, of the Doctor was eminently calculated to
command the respect of his juvenile kingdom. He was very tall and
strongly built, and half a lifetime of pedagogic despotism had endowed
him with a sternness of demeanour awe-inspiring enough to his charges,
though when turned towards the outside world, as represented by his
clerical colleagues for instance, it smacked of a pomposity bordering on
the absurd. He had his genial side, however, and was not averse to the
cracking of pedagogic jokes, at which he expected the form to laugh. It
is almost unnecessary to add that the form never by any chance
To-day, however, no trace of such geniality was discernible, nothing but
a magisterial severity in every movement of the massive iron grey head,
a menace in the fierce brown eyes, as in a word, sounding like the
warning bark of an angry mastiff, he ordered the whole school to keep
their places. The whole school did so, and that with a thrill of
pleasurable excitement. There was no end of a row on, it decided, and
as it only concerned the one who was standing alone before the dread
presence, the residue prepared to enjoy the situation.
It was the more enjoyable to the vast majority of the spectators because
the delinquent was a prefect, and not a very popular one at that.
"Have you any further report to make, Haviland?" said the headmaster.
"No, sir," answered Haviland in genuine surprise, for he had made his
reports, all in order, his own roll, and the general report as prefect
of the week. Yet he didn't like the tone. It sounded ominous.
"Ah! Let Finch and Harris step forward."
Two quaking juniors slunk from their places, and stood in the awful
presence. The crime charged against the luckless pair was that of
trespass. The system of "bounds" did not exist at Saint Kirwin's,
though there were limits of time, such being constituted by frequent
callings-over. Otherwise the school could wander as it listed, the
longest stretch obtainable being about an hour and three-quarters.
There had, however, been a good many complaints of late with regard to
boys overrunning the neighbouring pheasant coverts in search of birds'
nests, for egg-collecting had many enthusiastic votaries in the school,
and now these two luckless ones, Finch and Harris, had been collared
red-handed that very afternoon by a stalwart keeper, and hauled straight
away to the Doctor.
But where did Haviland come in? Just this way. In the course of a
severe cross-examination in private, the headmaster had elicited from
the two frightened juniors that when emerging from some forbidden ground
they had seen Haviland under circumstances which rendered it impossible
that he should not have seen them. It is only fair to the two that they
hardly knew themselves how the information had been surprised out of
them - certain it was that no other master could have done it - only the
terrible Doctor. It had been ruled of late, by reason of the frequency
of such complaints, that all cases of trespass on preserved land should
be reported, instead of being dealt with as ordinary misdemeanours by
the prefects; and here was a most flagrant instance of breach of trust
on the part of one of the latter. As for Haviland, the game was all up,
he decided. He would be deprived of his official position, and its
great and material privileges, and be reduced to the ranks. He expected
"Now, Haviland," said the Doctor, "how is it you did not report these
"I ought to have, sir," was the answer.
"You ought to have," echoed the Doctor, his voice assuming its most
awe-inspiring tones. "And, did you intend to report them?"
Here was a loophole. Here was a chance held out to him. Why not grasp
it? At best he would get off with a severe wigging, at worst with an
imposition. It would only be a white lie after all, and surely under
the circumstances justifiable. The stern eyes of the headmaster seemed
to penetrate his brain, and every head was craned forward open-mouthed
for his answer. It came.
"I'm afraid I did not, sir."
"You are afraid you did not! Very well. Then there is no more to be
said." And the Doctor, bending down, was seen to be writing something
on a slip of paper - the while the whole school was on tenterhooks, but
the excitement was of a more thrilling nature than ever now. What would
be the upshot? was in every mind. A swishing of course. Not for
Haviland though; he was too old, and a prefect. He would be reduced.
Then the headmaster looked up and proceeded to pass sentence.
"These continual complaints on the part of the neighbours," he said,
"are becoming very serious indeed, and are getting the school a very bad
name. I am determined to put a stop to them, and indeed it is becoming
a grave question with me whether I shall not gate the whole school
during the remainder of the term. These two boys, who have been brought
up to me, represent a number of cases, I am afraid, wherein the
offenders escape undetected and unpunished: therefore I shall make a
severe example of them, and of any others in like case. And now a word
to the prefects."
A long, acrid, and bitter homily for the benefit of those officials
followed - the juniors listening with intense delight, not that the order
was especially unpopular, but simply the outcome of the glee of juvenile
human nature over those set in authority over it being rated and brought
to book in their turn. Then, having descanted on authority and trust,
and so forth, until every one of those officially endowed with such
responsibility began almost to wish they were not - with the exception
perhaps of the one who stood certain to be deprived of it - the
"Harris and Finch, I shall flog you both to-morrow morning after
divinity lesson, and I may add that any boy reported to me for the same
offence will certainly receive the same treatment. As for you,
Haviland," handing him the slip of paper on which he had been writing,
"you will post this upon the board. And I warn you that any further
dereliction of duty on your part brought to my notice will entail very
much more severe consequences."
Mechanically Haviland took the paper, containing of course the notice of
his suspension, and could hardly believe his eyes. This is what he
"Fifteen hundred lines (of Virgil). For gross neglect of duty. Gated
"Nicholas Bowen, D.D., Headmaster."
The great bound of relief evolved by the respite of the heavier penalty
was succeeded in his mind by resentment and disgust as he realised the
magnitude of this really formidable imposition. The Doctor had left the
desk and the room, and now the whole gathering was pouring forth to the
outer air again. Not a few curious glances were turned on Haviland to
see how he took it: the two condemned juniors, however, being surrounded
by a far more boisterously sympathetic crowd - those who had been swished
before undertaking, with a hundredfold wealth of exaggeration, to
explain to these two, who had not, what it felt like, by way of
"What's he given you, Hav?" said Medlicott, a fellow prefect, and rather
a chum of the principal victim's, looking over the notice. "That all!
You've got off cheap, I can tell you. We reckoned it meant suspension -
especially as Nick has a down on you."
"Nick," be it observed, was the inevitable name by which the redoubtable
headmaster was known among the boys. It had started as "Old Nick," but
the suggestion diabolical had been sacrificed to brevity.
"That all!" echoed Haviland wrathfully. "Fifteen hundred's a howling
stiff impos, Medlicott. And it really means two thou, for the old brute
always swears about a third of your stuff is so badly written you've got
to do it over again. It's a regulation time-honoured swindle of his.
And - just as the egg-season is getting at its best! It's too beastly
Haviland was an enthusiastic egg-hunter, and had a really fine
collection. In the season he lived for nothing else, every moment of
his spare time being given up to adding to it. Of course he himself
frequently transgressed the laws of trespass, but he was never known to
bring a junior to book for doing so - on the contrary, he was always
careful to look the other way if he suspected the presence of any such.
Now, having fixed the hateful notice to the board nailed to the wall for
such purposes, he got out a Virgil and sat down to begin his odious
task. The big schoolroom was empty save for a few who were under like
penalty with himself. What a lovely afternoon it was, and he would have
had nearly an hour and a half, just time to go over and secure the two
remaining eggs in that sparrow-hawk's nest in the copse at the foot of
the down - a programme he had mapped out for himself before this grievous
misfortune had overtaken him. Now some other fellow would find them, or
they would be "set" and useless before he could get out again. "Gated
till done." Half the sting of the penalty lay in those abominable
words - for it meant that no foot could be set outside the school gates
until the whole of it was completed.
"I say, Haviland. We're no end sorry."
The interruption proceeded from the two smaller culprits, predestined to
the rod on the morrow. Haviland looked up wrathfully.
"Sorry, are you, you young sweeps? So am I - sorry I didn't `sock' your
"Please, Haviland, can't we do your impos for you - or at any rate some
"D'you think Old Nick's such an ass as all that? Why, he'd spot the
fraud a mile off! Besides, remember what he said about breach of trust
and all that. He'd better keep that for chapel next Sunday," he added
sneeringly. "Look here, you youngsters, you'll be well swished
to-morrow, a round dozen at least, and you'd better toss for second
innings, because then Nick'll be getting tired - but anyway you're not
gated and I am. Will you go and take a nest for me?"
"Rather. Where is it?" chorussed both boys eagerly.
"Smallest of the two tree patches, foot of Sidebury Down.
Sparrow-hawk's - in an ivy-hung ash. It's quite an easy climb. You
can't miss it, and there should be two eggs left in it. I collared two
a couple of days back, and put in stones. You won't get pickled for it
any more either, because it isn't on preserved ground. You'll have to
run all the way though."
They promised, and were off like a shot, and it is only fair to say that
they brought back the spoil, and duly and loyally handed it over to its
Left to himself, Haviland set to work with an effort. After a hundred
of the lines he flung his pen down angrily.
"Hang it, I hate this beastly place," he muttered to himself. "I don't
care how soon I leave."
This was not strictly true. He liked the school and its life, in
reality more than he was aware of himself. He was always glad to get
back to it, for his home life was unattractive. He was the son of an
extremely conscientious but very overworked and very underpaid parson,
the vicar of a large and shabby-genteel suburban parish, and the fresh,
healthy, beautiful surroundings of Saint Kirwin's all unconsciously had
their effect upon his impressionable young mind, after the glaring
dustiness, or rain-sodden mud according to the season of the year - of
the said suburb. He was a good-looking lad of seventeen, well-grown for
his age, and seeming older, yet thus early somewhat soured, by reason of
the already felt narrowing effects of poverty, and an utter lack of
anything definite in the way of prospects; for he had no more idea of
what his future walk in life was to be than the man in the moon.
And so he sat, that lovely cloudless half-holiday afternoon, grinding
out his treadmill-like imposition, angrily, rebelliously, his one and
only thought to get that over as soon as possible.
Haviland's gloomy prediction proved in so far correct, in that when,
after nearly a weary week of toil during his spare moments, he handed in
his imposition, his insatiable taskmaster insisted on his re-writing two
hundred of the lines. Then with lightened heart he found himself free
to resume his all-engrossing and gloriously healthy pursuit.
There is, or used to be, a superstition that a boy who didn't care for
cricket or football must necessarily be an ass, a loafer, and to be
regarded with some suspicion. Yet in point of fact such by no means
follows, and our friend Haviland was a case in point. He could cover as
many miles of ground in the limited time allowed as any one in the
school, and more than most. He could climb anything, could pick his way
delicately through the most forbidden ground, quartering it exhaustively
every yard, what time his natural enemy the keeper, his suspicions
roused, was on the watch in the very same covert, and return safe and
sound with his pearly treasures - to excite the envy and admiration of
the egg-collecting fraternity; yet though this represented his pet
hobby, he was something of an all-round naturalist, and his wanderings
in field and wood were by no means confined to the nesting season.
He might have liked cricket could he have been always in, but fielding
out he pronounced beastly slow. As for football he declared he couldn't
see any fun in having his nose jammed an inch and a half deep into
liquid mud, with ten or a dozen fellows on top of him trying to jam it
in still deeper: and in the result he always wanted to hit some one when
he got up again. Besides, a game you were obliged to play whether you
wanted to or not, ceased to be a game at all - and during its season
football was compulsory on half-holidays, at any rate for the juniors.
Now, as a prefect, he was exempt, and he appreciated his exemption.
But, his distaste for the _two_ great games notwithstanding, there was