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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> A Prefect's Uncle -> Chapter 2

A Prefect's Uncle - Chapter 2

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18


On the following day, at nine o'clock, the term formally began. There
is nothing of Black Monday about the first day of term at a public
school. Black Monday is essentially a private school institution.

At Beckford the first day of every term was a half holiday. During the
morning a feeble pretence of work was kept up, but after lunch the
school was free, to do as it pleased and to go where it liked. The nets
were put up for the first time, and the School professional emerged at
last from his winter retirement with his, 'Coom _right_ out to
'em, sir, right forward', which had helped so many Beckford cricketers
to do their duty by the School in the field. There was one net for the
elect, the remnants of last year's Eleven and the 'probables' for this
season, and half a dozen more for lesser lights.

At the first net Norris was batting to the bowling of Gosling, a long,
thin day boy, Gethryn, and the professional--as useful a trio as any
school batsman could wish for. Norris was captain of the team this
year, a sound, stylish bat, with a stroke after the manner of Tyldesley
between cover and mid-off, which used to make Miles the professional
almost weep with joy. But today he had evidently not quite got into
form. Twice in successive balls Gosling knocked his leg stump out of
the ground with yorkers, and the ball after that, Gethryn upset his
middle with a beauty.

'Hat-trick, Norris,' shouted Gosling.

'Can't see 'em a bit today. Bowled, Bishop.'

A second teaser from Gethryn had almost got through his defence. The
Bishop was undoubtedly a fine bowler. Without being quite so fast as
Gosling, he nevertheless contrived to work up a very considerable speed
when he wished to, and there was always something in every ball he
bowled which made it necessary for the batsman to watch it all the way.
In matches against other schools it was generally Gosling who took the
wickets. The batsmen were bothered by his pace. But when the M.C.C. or
the Incogniti came down, bringing seasoned county men who knew what
fast bowling really was, and rather preferred it on the whole to slow,
then Gethryn was called upon.

Most Beckfordians who did not play cricket on the first day of term
went on the river. A few rode bicycles or strolled out into the country
in couples, but the majority, amongst whom on this occasion was
Marriott, sallied to the water and hired boats. Marriott was one of the
six old cricket colours--the others were Norris, Gosling, Gethryn,
Reece, and Pringle of the School House--who formed the foundation of
this year's Eleven. He was not an ornamental bat, but stood quite alone
in the matter of tall hitting. Twenty minutes of Marriott when in form
would often completely alter the course of a match. He had been given
his colours in the previous year for making exactly a hundred in
sixty-one minutes against the Authentics when the rest of the team had
contributed ninety-eight. The Authentics made a hundred and
eighty-four, so that the School just won; and the story of how there
were five men out in the deep for him, and how he put the slow bowler
over their heads and over the ropes eight times in three overs, had
passed into a school legend.

But today other things than cricket occupied his attention. He had run
Wilson to earth, and was engaged in making his acquaintance, according
to instructions received.

'Are you Wilson?' he asked. 'P.V. Wilson?'

Wilson confirmed the charge.

'My name's Marriott. Does that convey any significance to your young

'Oh, yes. My mater knows somebody who knows your aunt.'

'It is a true bill.'

'And she said you would look after me. I know you won't have time, of

'I expect I shall have time to give you all the looking after you'll
require. It won't be much, from all I've heard. Was all that true about
you and young Skinner?'

Wilson grinned.

'I did have a bit of a row with a chap called Skinner,' he admitted.

'So Skinner seems to think,' said Marriott. 'What was it all about?'

'Oh, he made an ass of himself,' said Wilson vaguely.

Marriott nodded.

'He would. I know the man. I shouldn't think you'd have much trouble
with Skinner in the future. By the way, I've got you for a fag this
term. You don't have to do much in the summer. Just rot around, you
know, and go to the shop for biscuits and things, that's all. And,
within limits of course, you get the run of the study.'

'I see,' said Wilson gratefully. The prospect was pleasant.

'Oh yes, and it's your privilege to pipe-clay my cricket boots
occasionally before First matches. You'll like that. Can you steer a

'I don't think so. I never tried.'

'It's easy enough. I'll tell you what to do. Anyhow, you probably won't
steer any worse than I row, so let's go and get a boat out, and I'll
try and think of a few more words of wisdom for your benefit.'

At the nets Norris had finished his innings, and Pringle was batting in
his stead. Gethryn had given up his ball to Baynes, who bowled slow
leg-breaks, and was the most probable of the probables above-mentioned.
He went to where Norris was taking off his pads, and began to talk to
him. Norris was the head of Jephson's House, and he and the Bishop were
very good friends, in a casual sort of way. If they did not see one
another for a couple of days, neither of them broke his heart.
Whenever, on the other hand, they did meet, they were always glad, and
always had plenty to talk about. Most school friendships are of that

'You were sending down some rather hot stuff,' said Norris, as Gethryn
sat down beside him, and began to inspect Pringle's performance with a
critical eye.

'I did feel rather fit,' said he. 'But I don't think half those that
got you would have taken wickets in a match. You aren't in form yet.'

'I tell you what it is, Bishop,' said Norris, 'I believe I'm going to
be a rank failure this season. Being captain does put one off.'

'Don't be an idiot, man. How can you possibly tell after one day's play
at the nets?'

'I don't know. I feel so beastly anxious somehow. I feel as if I was
personally responsible for every match lost. It was all right last year
when John Brown was captain. Good old John! Do you remember his running
you out in the Charchester match?'

'Don't,' said Gethryn pathetically. 'The only time I've ever felt as if
I really was going to make that century. By Jove, see that drive?
Pringle seems all right.'

'Yes, you know, he'll simply walk into his Blue when he goes up to the
Varsity. What do you think of Baynes?'

'Ought to be rather useful on his wicket. Jephson thinks he's good.'

Mr Jephson looked after the School cricket.

'Yes, I believe he rather fancies him,' said Norris. 'Says he ought to
do some big things if we get any rain. Hullo, Pringle, are you coming
out? You'd better go in, then, Bishop.'

'All right. Thanks. Oh, by Jove, though, I forgot. I can't. I've got to
go down to the station to meet an uncle of mine.'

'What's he coming up today for? Why didn't he wait till we'd got a
match of sorts on?'

'I don't know. The man's probably a lunatic. Anyhow, I shall have to go
and meet him, and I shall just do it comfortably if I go and change

'Oh! Right you are! Sammy, do you want a knock?'

Samuel Wilberforce Gosling, known to his friends and admirers as Sammy,
replied that he did not. All he wanted now, he said, was a drink, or
possibly two drinks, and a jolly good rest in the shade somewhere.
Gosling was one of those rare individuals who cultivate bowling at the
expense of batting, a habit the reverse of what usually obtains in

Norris admitted the justice of his claims, and sent in a Second Eleven
man, Baker, a member of his own House, in Pringle's place. Pringle and
Gosling adjourned to the School shop for refreshment.

Gethryn walked with them as far as the gate which opened on to the road
where most of the boarding Houses stood, and then branched off in the
direction of Leicester's. To change into everyday costume took him a
quarter of an hour, at the end of which period he left the House, and
began to walk down the road in the direction of the station.

It was an hour's easy walking between Horton, the nearest station to
Beckford, and the College. Gethryn, who was rather tired after his
exertions at the nets, took it very easily, and when he arrived at his
destination the church clock was striking four.

'Is the three-fifty-six in yet?' he asked of the solitary porter who
ministered to the needs of the traveller at Horton station.

'Just a-coming in now, zur,' said the porter, adding, in a sort of
inspired frenzy: ''Orton! 'Orton stertion! 'Orton!' and ringing a bell
with immense enthusiasm and vigour.

Gethryn strolled to the gate, where the station-master's son stood at
the receipt of custom to collect the tickets. His uncle was to arrive
by this train, and if he did so arrive, must of necessity pass this way
before leaving the platform. The train panted in, pulled up, whistled,
and puffed out again, leaving three people behind it. One of these was
a woman of sixty (approximately), the second a small girl of ten, the
third a young gentleman in a top hat and Etons, who carried a bag, and
looked as if he had seen the hollowness of things, for his face wore a
bored, supercilious look. His uncle had evidently not arrived, unless
he had come disguised as an old woman, an act of which Gethryn refused
to believe him capable.

He enquired as to the next train that was expected to arrive from
London. The station-master's son was not sure, but would ask the
porter, whose name it appeared was Johnny. Johnny gave the correct
answer without an effort. 'Seven-thirty it was, sir, except on
Saturdays, when it was eight o'clock.'

'Thanks,' said the Bishop. 'Dash the man, he might at least have

He registered a silent wish concerning the uncle who had brought him a
long three miles out of his way with nothing to show at the end of it,
and was just turning to leave the station, when the top-hatted small
boy, who had been hovering round the group during the conversation,
addressed winged words to him. These were the winged words--

'I say, are you looking for somebody?' The Bishop stared at him as a
naturalist stares at a novel species of insect.

'Yes,' he said. 'Why?'

'Is your name Gethryn?'

This affair, thought the Bishop, was beginning to assume an uncanny

'How the dickens did you know that?' he said.

'Oh, then you are Gethryn? That's all right. I was told you were going
to be here to meet this train. Glad to make your acquaintance. My
name's Farnie. I'm your uncle, you know.'

'My what?' gurgled the Bishop.

'Your uncle. U-n, un; c-l-e--kul. Uncle. Fact, I assure you.'

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