AT SCHOOL IN 1975
This first episode taken from The Hotspur issue: 164 October 17th 1936.
This new kind of story tells you what schools will be like in 40 years from now.
Were the Old Days Better?
The oddest-looking figure in
To start with, he wore
heavy shows made of leather, which seemed very clumsy things to the Bankfield
boys. His trousers were of a black-and-grey-striped material, and they were
made of heavy cloth. So was the waistcoat he wore and the tight-fitting black
jacket. Another thing that made the boys stare was the fact that round his neck
he wore a stiff collar, which seemed to be kept in place by a knotted tie. On
his head he wore a queer, flat-topped hat which the boys had been told was
called a “mortar board.” Over his shoulders he wore a black, pleated gown. Mr
Spud came slowly across the quadrangle, his shoulders bowed with a scholarly
stoop. He had spent forty of his best years at the school. For years he had
been one of the regular teachers, until the new methods had come into force.
Then, because of his long association with the school, Mr Spud had been kept
on, more as the caretaker of the old buildings than anything else. He had not
done any teaching for a good many years. As a matter of fact, the ivy-covered,
weather-beaten walls of the old school struck a strange note in the countryside.
On the other side of the large quadrangle, the new buildings had been erected.
These were massive, flat-topped erections, all with sun-trap verandahs and long
glass windows. The white concrete shone dazzlingly in the light of the morning
sun. As he crossed the quadrangle, Mr Spud looked at the new buildings with
distaste. Turning to the old school, affection came into his eyes. He looked at
the boys who were slowly parading round the quadrangle. All were attired in the
same uniform – a loosely fitting belted grey tunic, with long trousers that
were strapped to sandals. Across each tunic was a purple stripe, which was the
identification mark of
The School Without Teachers
As Mr Spud disappeared into the distance, a buzzer sounded in the new building. The boys turned on their heels and entered a large room on the ground floor. Here they seated themselves at long, shining metal tables. One end of each table fitted into the farther wall.
Scarcely had the boys seated themselves than there was
the slightest of whirring noises and large shutters in the wall opened. Through
the openings came glass dish after glass dish, each of which seemed to slide of
its own accord down the tables. With each dish was a glass of bubbling, faintly
green liquid, and the foremost dish came to a stop directly in front of the end
boy. Each plate bore two small, pancake-like objects. Breakfast at
The Kipper Bootlegger
Meantime, Mr Spud had crossed the elevated roadways by the pedestrians’ bridge. Before him now lay half a dozen fields, set out in long strips. Between each field was a narrow concrete path and beyond the fields was a thick clump of trees. Reaching the trees, Mr Spud stood looking about him for some moments rather fearfully. Finally, he dived underneath the branches.
In the centre of the clump was a bush-rimmed hollow.
At the bottom of this a red-faced individual was waiting. He wore the usual
light-grey tunic and strapped trousers. Across the tunic was a yellow band,
showing that this man was an inhabitant of
The Menace of the Cats
Morgan’s intentions on leaving the old school had been honest enough. He had fully determined to keep his promise. But when he went up to his dormitory that night, the boy was still thinking of the kipper.
Morgan had never been able
to get himself in the limelight at the school. Now, as the minutes went by, a
sudden urge came upon him. He must let the other boys in the dormitory into his
secret—they must know of this wonderful food he had discovered! It wasn’t fair
to keep it to himself. Of course, he had promised Mr Spud—but he could trust
all these other fellows. They would keep it to themselves. Suddenly he shot
upright in the bed. “You chaps,” he said, “a most amazing thing happened
to-day. If you chaps will keep quiet about it, I’ll let you into a secret.” He
was so earnest about it that for once he succeeded in holding everybody’s
attention. And so the story of Mr Spud’s kippers was told. “You’ve never tasted
anything like it,” said Morgan. “As far as I’m concerned, I could live on
kippers for ever.” The other boys exchanged glances. “Well,” said one of them,
“if it’s as good as you say it is, we ought to see old Spud about it in the
morning.” So, early next morning, Mr Spud had the shock of his life when nearly
forty boys entered the old buildings. Morgan had the grace to blush. “I
couldn’t help it, Mr Spud,” he said. “I—I simply couldn’t keep it to myself.
All these chaps are pals of mine—they’ll keep it dark. But they’re all terribly
anxious to taste a kipper for themselves. There is a half holiday this afternoon,
Mr Spud. Couldn’t you get a kipper each of us—two if possible?” “It’s
impossible!” said Mr Spud. “Absolutely impossible! If I’d known that you were
going to break your promise—” He broke off. He realized that he had been
trapped. If he refused to get kippers for these boys, some of them, at least,
would talk. If the matter came to the ears of the authorities he would be
dismissed. And Mr Spud knew that if he left the old buildings of Bankfield his
heart would break. “I—I’ll do my best,” he stammered, “but—but I won’t promise
anything. Kippers are very hard to obtain, and it may be weeks before I can get
any.” With that the boys had to be content. “I’ll come back after school this
morning,” said Morgan, “to find out what sort of luck you’ve had.” When they
had gone, Mr Spud stood biting his nails for some considerable time. Then, with
a shrug of resignation he went to the television-telephone. He dialed a number.
Almost at once a small screen behind the telephone became illuminated, and the
face of the man from whom Mr Spud had bought the kippers appeared. Mr Spud
spoke directly to the televisor now. “Are you alone?” he asked. “Is it safe to
discuss private matters?” The other nodded. “Well,” said Mr Spud, his voice
almost a whisper, “I want you to get forty kippers for me as quickly as
possible. Can you?” “Forty kippers!” gasped the man. “What on earth do you want
forty kippers for?” “Never mind,” said Mr Spud. “I dare not explain. But I need
forty kippers—as quickly as you can obtain them.” The other turned his head as
though to make sure that no one was listening. “You’re lucky, Mr Spud,” he
said. “It so happens that I’ve got about four dozen kippers here. But I can’t
get four dozen kippers out to you—that’s far too many for me to carry at one
time. If you’re wanting all the kippers’ to-day, you’ll have to come down and
get them yourself.” Mr Spud thought quickly. The sooner the boys were given
their promised treat the less chance of their opening their mouths. “All
right,” he said quickly. “I’ll come down this morning. I’ll find some way of
smuggling them into the school.” But, when he had rung off, Mr Spud walked his
room in perplexity. Finally, he spun on his heels and walked into the old
school hall. “It’s the only way,” he said. “Nobody is likely to suspect.”
Opening a large cupboard, he took out an old-fashioned cricket bag. In it were
a number of bats. Lifting the bats out tenderly, Mr Spud placed them back in
the cupboard. Then, closing the bag, he picked it up and carried it away. A
short time later, still carrying the bag, he crossed the quadrangle. By sheer
ill-luck he walked slap into the Headmaster. The latter looked at the
old-fashioned bag curiously. “What on earth have you there, Spud?” he inquired.
Mr Spud felt himself flushing, and could have kicked himself. “It—it’s an old
cricket bag,” he said. “It would be before your time, sir. The boys used to
carry their bats and other kit in them.” “Oh,” said Dr Ryman, who was only
thirty years of age, “so that’s a cricket bag, is it? A most cumbersome object.
But where are you taking it?” “Oh,” faltered Mr Spud, “cricket bats need
constant oiling in order to keep them in good condition. These bats have been
lying dry for a number of years, and I’m afraid they’re getting brittle. I
consider them as valuable objects—there aren’t many cricket bats left in the
country, you know—so I’m taking them down to the town to the only shop where I
can obtain linseed oil. I shall have the bats treated there, and then I shall
bring them back.” Mr Spud made his way into the town of
The Lure of the Smell
Early that afternoon Morgan and his pals entered the old buildings. Knowing of their coming, Mr Spud had lit fires in the four fireplaces in the big hall. This was nothing unusual, because once a week Mr Spud always lit the fires in order to air the old buildings.
“You’ve got the kippers?” asked Morgan excitedly. Mr Spud nodded. Having made sure that all the boys were present, he carefully closed the windows. “How did the boys cook these things when they used this old building, sir?” demanded Morgan. At once Mr Spud was off. He told the boys of the famous study feeds—or how the youngsters of the past had cooked kippers on the ends of pens before the common room and classroom fires. “Perhaps, you’d like to do the same,” he said. “I’ve still got most of the old school stock. In my cupboard there are any number of pens. We’ll cook these kippers in the real old-fashioned way.” The pens were objects of curiosity, for none of the boys present had ever used a pen. All their writing was done by electrically worked typewriters. The kippers were stuck on to the pen nibs. Then Morgan and his pals grouped themselves round the four fires and proceeded to toast both themselves and the kippers. Never in all their lives had they enjoyed themselves so much. And soon the appetizing smell of grilling kippers began to fill the hall. Mr Spud now absolutely forgetful of danger, visited every group in turn, giving instructions and explaining when a kipper was cooked and when it was not cooked. The few last kippers were being cooked when the door opened and Dr Ryman walked in. “Good gracious!” he said. “This smell I first picked it up in the quadrangle. Whatever is happening here, Spur?” Morgan and two of his pals still held their kippers on the ends of pens. “Fish!” exclaimed Dr Ryman. “Fish!” Disgusting! What have you to say?” His face was suddenly flushing, he turned on Mr Spud and leveled a finger at him. “Mr Spud,” he said, “you have lured these boys into this room to feed them upon forbidden food. You know the law against fish.” Morgan tried to make amends. “It—it was my fault,” he said, uncomfortably. I—I almost forced Mr Spud to get them for me. I—” Dr Ryman waved him aside. “You must have learned from Mr Spud,” he said. “You boys will go back to your quarters and you will leave these horrid objects where they are. I will send a man along to collect them so that they can be destroyed. Go!” The boys, their hopes dashed, vanished. Dr Ryman turned to Mr Spud. “Mr Spud,” he rapped, “this time you have gone too far. Your influence in this school is a bad one. However, I propose to be lenient. I shall be satisfied if you will leave this school at the earliest possible moment. “Yes, sir,” said Mr Spud sadly. He knew there was nothing else he could say. Dr Ryman returned to his own quarters and sent a school servant over to collect the forbidden kippers. Dr Ryman was deep in carrying four plates heaped with kippers. “What shall I do with these?” he demanded. Dr Ryman his mind upon his task, failed to realize what the servant was carrying. “Oh,” he said, “put them down in that corner, please.” The kippers were placed in a corner, and the servant withdrew. Now near that corner was a hidden electric fire. Soon that fire made its effect felt upon the top row of kippers. They began to sizzle all over again. Soon the room was filled with appetizing odour. Suddenly Dr Ryman discovered that he was hungry. “Delicious smell!” he said. “Delicious! Where on earth can it be coming from? It--it—” He saw the frizzling kippers on the top plate. Going over to them, he acted just as Morgan had acted. In half-scared fashion he placed his finger upon the topmost kipper and then placed it in his mouth. He did this several times. Then his actions became even more strange. Crossing to the window, he pulled a dark shutter down so that all light was cut off. Going to the door, he locked it. Then, having switched on the electric he lifted that top plate of kippers. A moment later he was pitching in with right good will!
Late that night, Mr Spud was packing his belongings. He was in the middle of it when there was a knock at the door and Dr Ryman entered. There was a somewhat secretive look about the Headmaster. “Mr Spud,” he said, “I want you to forget what I said this afternoon. I feel that I was unduly harsh. As a valued old servant of this school, you must not be allowed to leave under a cloud. It is my earnest hope that you will forget everything that happened this afternoon and that you will consent to remain here. Years seemed to fall away from Mr Spud’s shoulders. “Dr Ryman,” he said, “I’ll never be able to thank you. The thought of leaving was nearly breaking my heart.” Dr Ryman came a few steps nearer. “And oh,” – and his voice was a mere whisper—” when next you receive some—some—er—kippers, Mr Spud, perhaps you will let me know. I—I think I could manage three at one sitting. You won’t forget, will you?” Understanding burst upon Mr Spud. He chuckled. “Don’t you worry, Dr Ryman,” he said. “Whenever I receive kippers in the future I will let you know.” On an afternoon three days later Dr Ryman locked his study and cooked himself three kippers. He thoroughly enjoyed every morsel of them. A little later he crossed the school yard, to see that smoke was pouring from the chimneys of the old school. As he neared the building, a very appetizing odour came to his nostrils. It was quite obvious that many kippers were being cooked inside the building. Inside the old school, Morgan and his pals were enjoying their delayed feast. Mr Spud was the Master of Ceremonies and he was enjoying himself even more than his visitors.
This last episode taken from The Hotspur issue: 175 January 2nd 1937.
a 12-year-old boy became
A Skipper for Bankfield
Morgan, one of the many eighteen-year-old Fourth Formers as
“It’s a pity there’s nothing like this nowadays,” he sighed. “When I leave school I shall leave nothing at all behind me. The chaps will forget me before a month has passed.” That set Mr Spud talking. The caretaker was a man who lived in the past—he was wrapped up in traditions of the old school. In the year 1936, Mr Spud had been the Fourth Form master at Bankfield. Now in 1975, he was only the caretaker of the old school buildings. When the big changeover from ordinary teaching to television had taken place in the early nineteen-forties, all the masters had been dismissed. New buildings had been erected, and into these the boys had moved. Mr Spud had been offered the job of caretaker of the old buildings. He had been only too glad to accept, for he had been scared that the old buildings, which had stood for so many centuries, would be pulled down. “Yes, Morgan,” said the old master. “It’s a great shame that all the old school customs died out. Bankfield doesn’t seem a school now without a captain and prefects.” “Those chaps were almost like masters weren’t they?” asked Morgan. “They were allowed to punish boys, I’ve heard.” “That’s so,” agreed Mr Spud. “It was a system that always caused arguments, but I’m convinced that it was a good system. The boys took a lot of work off the shoulders of the masters. Being closer to the other boys they could deal with matters that never reached the masters’ ears.” He pointed to the long list of names on the “captains” board. “Just look at the famous names up there” he said. “Arnold, Raleigh, Bakewell, Cloaker, Farleigh—oh, how I wish they were here to-day.” “Well,” sighed Morgan, “there’s no place for a school captain or prefects nowadays.” When Morgan had gone, Mr Spud returned to the hall and stood gazing up at the honours boards. “It was bad enough when all sports ceased,” he muttered, “but to do away with captains and prefects was a big mistake. This school would be a much better place to-day if it had a captain and prefects.” The old master would have stood in front of the boards for a very long time if he hadn’t suddenly remembered that he had an appointment down in the town. He decided to walk, left the building, and set out across the long, narrow fields. It was nearly dark when Mr Spud returned to the school. He was crossing the space between the old and new school buildings when a noise ahead attracted his attention. A dozen or more boys appeared to be fighting on the ground. Mr Spud shouted and broke into a run. That shout was a mistake, for instantly the boys jumped to their feet. Catching sight of the running figure, they also took to their heels and ran. Mr Spud blinked a little when he saw that all of them were masked! But there was one boy who did not run. He lay still in the quad. “Ridgeley!” gasped Mr Spud, as he bent over the boy. “Whatever has happened?” The boy on the ground was aged about seventeen, and Mr Spud knew that he was a member of the First Form. The boy’s clothes were torn, and already bruises were beginning to show up on his face. The boy lurched painfully to his feet, and Mr Spud was forced to support him. “I don’t know what happened, sir,” he gasped. “I was walking across the quad when they jumped on me. I couldn’t see their faces because they were all masked.” “You must see Dr Ryman at once,” snapped Dr Spud. “You need medical attention.” Dr Ryman, the Headmaster of the school, almost had a pink fit when he saw Ridgeley. He treated the boy’s injuries, and then had him taken to the school hospital. “Have you any idea why the boy was attacked?” asked Mr Spud when the lad had gone. “There’s something wrong in the school,” was the reply. “This isn’t the first time that a boy has been set upon in the quadrangle. In the last few weeks I’ve had about a dozen cases.” “This is serious,” rapped Mr Spud. “If I hadn’t arrived upon the scene, Ridgeley would have been seriously injured.” “I know,” said Dr Ryman. “One or two boys have been seriously injured.” “If this school still possessed a captain and a set of prefects, none of these attacks would be able to take place,” growled Mr Spud. “Sooner or later the prefects would get their hands on the culprits, and the whole matter would be quickly squashed.” “I’m willing to do anything to stop these brutal attacks,” snapped the Head suddenly. “Can you explain the captain and prefect system to me?” Mr Spud lost no time in explaining the old scheme. He explained that the choice of a captain had depended on the vote of the boys, and that the Head had selected his own prefects in the old days. Dr Ryman hesitated for a moment, and then seemed to make up his mind. “All right, Spud,” he said. “I’ll try your idea out. A school captain and a number of prefects shall be appointed. I’ll leave the election of the captain in your hands.”
The Great Election
Next morning, Dr Ryman addressed the boys in the hall of the new buildings. He said nothing about the attack upon Ridgeley, but spoke only of the appointment of a school captain. “I feel,” he said, “that a little authority would do some of you boys a world of good. When your captain has been elected, he’ll be allowed to choose half a dozen prefects to help him.”
He went on to explain what
the duties of captain and prefect would be, and what privileges they would
possess. “I wonder if old Spud had a hand in this?” said Morgan to his pal
Wainwright. “I was talking to him about the old school captains only last
night.” “I shouldn’t be at all surprised,” said Wainwright. “Anyway, the
election of the school’s captain is going to be easy. There’s only one man for
the job—and that’s you!” “Wait a minute,” said Morgan blushing, “What about
you? I was thinking of putting you up and—” “Not a chance,” grinned Wainwright.
“If you get the job I’ll be glad to be one of your prefects, but the skipper’s
job is yours. I’m sending in your name to Mr Spud immediately after morning
school. And now I’d better get busy, for I’ve got to do a lot of canvassing on
your behalf.” Everywhere boys were standing about in groups, evidently
discussing the forthcoming election. Mr Spud found himself waiting for the end
of morning lessons in a fever of anxiety. How many names would be submitted for
the captaincy? Shortly after twelve o’clock, Wainwright arrived and handed in
Morgan’s name. “Morgan’s bound to be elected,” chuckled Wainwright. “Nobody
else stands a chance.” Mr Spud was delighted. He hoped that nobody else would
hand in names. But presently the name of Taplow, a big fellow in the Sixth Form
was handed to him. Then he received the name of Moffat, another Sixth Former.
Mr Spud blinked at this last name and shook his head. “I don’t know that I can
accept this name,” he said. “Moffat can’t be more than twelve years of age.
It’s useless to nominate him as the school captain.” “Well,” said the boy who
had brought in the name, “he’s in the Sixth Form, isn’t he? If he’s good enough
to be in the Sixth, he’s good enough to be school skipper.” “All right,” said
Mr Spud. “I’ll take his name for the time being.” Altogether, six names were
handed in. Before pinning the list on the notice board Mr Spud went across to
the Headmaster. “I’ve got six names here for the school captaincy,” he said.
“Five of them are the names of big boys. The sixth name, however, is that of
Moffat.” “Well,” demanded Dr Ryman, “what of it?” “Why,” replied Mr Spud,
gulping somewhat, “Moffat’s only twelve years of age. He couldn’t possibly be a
school captain.” “And why not?” demanded Dr Ryman. “Moffat is one of the
cleverest boys we have in the Sixth Form. His mentality is of a very high
order. If he’s elected, I’m sure he’ll do the job very well.” Mr Spud to his
horror, realized that it was useless to argue. In the old days boys had been
graded in the school according to their ages. They had started in the First
Form and had finished up in the Sixth. But nowadays age didn’t mean a thing.
When a new boy arrived at the school, he was given a mental test and he was
placed in a Form according to the results of this test. If his mentality was of
a low order, he was placed in the lowest Form. If he showed exceptional
ability, however, he started straightaway in the Sixth. This it was that boys
stayed in the First Form until the age of eighteen, while other boys entered
the Sixth when they were only a little over ten years of age. “Well,” thought
Mr Spud, in an effort to banish his fears, “nobody is likely to vote for
Moffat.” But there Mr Spud made a mistake. He overlooked the fact that in a
school the smallest boys always outnumbered the bigger ones. There was only one
other little point that he overlooked. When he placed the list up on the notice
board, it was seen by Johnson and Clark, two big fellows who had spent their
school life in the Third Form. They read the list through. “Well,” growled
Johnson, “I suppose we vote for Morgan?” “Not for me,” grunted
The Midnight Mystery
Entering the new building early next morning, Mr Spud saw that a new notice had been pinned up on the board. It was signed by Moffat, the new captain, and it gave the names of the new prefects. They were all Sixth Formers, but not one of them was more than thirteen years of age.
“What a farce!” exclaimed Mr Spud. “I must do something about this—I must really.” He was in the new buildings when the boys were once again summoned into the hall by Dr Ryman. Being curious to know what was in the wind, the old master went into the hall with the boys. Dr Ryman’s business didn’t take very long. “I just wish to remind you,” he said, “that to-day is the twenty-sixth of the month. On this day, as usual, all boys will stay within the school bounds. No boy will go outside unless he receives special leave.” For a moment Mr Spud was at a loss—then he remembered. Of course! It was the day of the Tolchase Race meeting. Horse-racing was one of the few sports that still survived. In fact, it had become more popular than ever, because the only place nowadays where one could see a horse was on the racecourse. For some years, the boys had been allowed to attend the race meetings, but boys in 1975 were just the same as boys in 1936. On several occasions they had got into trouble and their visits to Tolchase had finished up in free fights. It was because of this that on the day of the meeting, boys were now confined to bounds. Mr Spud always attended the meeting, and he left the school immediately after lunch. Although he had not a great deal of money to spare, he brought himself an expensive ticket so that he could go into the paddock and see the parade of horses before each race. In his youth Mr Spud had been a horse-lover, and now, of course, only millionaires could afford to keep horses. There were so few of the animals that they had become tremendously valuable. Having seen the first parade, Mr Spud went down to the rails in order to see the race. To his great surprise he found himself standing behind two Bankfield boys. One of them was Taplow, of the Sixth Form. “Pardon me,” said Mr Spud, “but what are you boys doing here? I hope you haven’t broken bounds?” Both boys looked very much taken aback at sight of the old master. “Oh, no!” said Taplow quickly. “We’ve got special leave.” Mr Spud frowned. He knew perfectly well that Dr Ryman wouldn’t grant special leave for the races. “Who gave you leave?” he demanded. “Was it Dr Ryman?” Taplow grinned. “Oh, no!” he replied. “My pass was signed by the new school captain. He has the authority to give special leave. Here’s the pass.” Mr Spud looked at the sheet of paper, which bore Moffat’s signature. “I see!” said Mr Spud, grimly, handing back the pass. So the trouble had started already! Moffat had no business to grant these boys special leave so that they could visit the racecourse. There was likely to be trouble when Dr Ryman heard of it. Wondering how many other Bankfield boys were present, Mr Spud decided to take a stroll round. He saw more than twenty Bankfield boys, and spoke to all of them. Every one produced a pass signed by Moffat. The last race was about to be run, when Mr Spud bumped into a crowd of excited small boys—Moffat and the new prefects! “Moffat!” exclaimed Mr Spud. “What does this mean? What are you doing here, and why have you granted special leave to so many boys?” “That’s my business, Spud,” scowled the boy. “You have no authority at the school, Spud, and therefore you’ve no right to question my actions. I have the power to grant special leave, and that’s all there is to it.” And, of course, Moffat was right. Mr Spud was only the caretaker of the old buildings, and he had no actual authority in the school. Realising that an argument with Moffat would be a very undignified affair, Mr Spud walked away. But he had lost his enthusiasm for the horse-racing now, and he lost no time in returning to the school. He was tempted to go at once to Dr Ryman and explain about the number of boys he had seen at Tolchase, but he thought better of it. That night Mr Spud sat up later than usual. He was thinking of turning in when a queer sound came to his ears. Crossing to the door of his room, he opened it and listened. The sound came again—the sound of voices. Mr Spud looked rather alarmed. Who could be in the old buildings at this hour of the night. Mr Spud was not lacking in courage. He paused for a moment in order to pick up an old-fashioned walking stick and then he set out to locate the strange voices. The sound led him to the door of what had been the Fourth Form classroom. The voices were much clearer now, and they were undoubtedly the voices of boys. Very gently Mr Spud turned the door handle, and more gently still opened the door. Half a dozen or so boys were inside and they were much too interested in what they were doing to see Mr Spud in the doorway. Moffat, the school captain, and his half dozen prefects were squatting in a circle in the centre of which was a large hamper. Mr Spud had stumbled upon a midnight feast! Suddenly Moffat began to chuckle. “There’s no doubt about it, you chaps,” he said. “We’re absolutely in clover. Selling passes at five bob a time is going to be a profitable business. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a feed like this about twice every week.” No wonder Mr Spud could only blink. Those boys at the race meeting had evidently bought their special passes. The money so collected had been used to buy this feed. “They may be Sixth Formers,” thought Mr Spud. “They may have first-class mentalities, but at heart they’re only boys of twelve. Only boys of that age would get a kick out of continual midnight feasting.” He coughed loudly and entered the room. Moffat and his pals shot to their feet. “What’s the meaning of this?” demanded Mr Spud. “Why have you broken into the old school?” Six Formers though they were, Moffat and the others had nothing to say. They stood gaping at Mr Spud like the guilty youngsters they were. “You will return to your dormitories.” Snapped Mr Spud, “and you’ll leave that hamper behind you. I very much fear that I shall have to tell Dr Ryman how the school captain amuses himself at night.” Moffat and his cronies started to plead, but Mr Spud shook his head. “At Tolchase this afternoon,” he said, “you told me I had no authority in the school. That may apply to the new buildings, but here in the old buildings I do have authority. You have broken in at night-time, and that is very serious. I shall have to consider carefully what steps I am to take. Now go!” And the boys left the same way as they entered—by way of the windows. When they had gone, Mr Spud stood for a long time lost in thought. “So Moffat’s selling passes, is he?” he murmured at last. “I think I see a way to convince Dr Ryman of this. Even he is bound to see the absurdity of keeping Moffat on as school captain.” Putting on his overcoat, Mr Spud left the old buildings and knocked up the electrician. The electrician, of course, was a very important personage in the school. Luckily Mr Spud was very friendly with him, so the electrician was not too annoyed at being dragged out of bed. “I want you to do a job,” said Mr Spud, “and I want you to do it now.” He explained exactly what he wanted, and the result was that the electrician worked for some short time in the study that had been given to Moffat, the school captain, and afterwards he set up a large television screen in Mr Spud’s study.
The Cunning of Mr Spud
Mr Spud pottered about the old school as usual the following morning, but on the stroke of twelve he entered his study and seated himself facing the big television screen. Pressing down a switch, the mirror became a blaze of light and slowly a picture took shape. Mr Spud found himself looking into Moffat’s study. The night before the electrician had fixed up a television point in the boy’s study.
About five minutes elapsed. Then the door of the study opened and the small Sixth Former entered. Flinging some books down in the corner, he seated himself at the table. Mr Spud waited. Then he saw the door of the study open, and an eighteen-year-old First Former entered. He towered over the little captain. “Say, Moffat,” he growled—and, of course, Mr Spud heard every word clearly— “I want a late pass for to-night.” “What’s your reason?” demanded Moffat. “That’s my business,” was the surly reply. “You hand the pass or you’ll get into trouble.” “You can’t get the pass as easily as that,” grinned Moffat. “If you want one, you’ll have to pay me five shillings.” The First Former shook his head again. “I’m broke,” he said. “In any case, I’m not paying. Just hand it over.” “I won’t,” snapped Moffat. “I—keep off!” The big First Former had jumped round the table and grabbed Moffat by the scruff of the neck. Jerking him to his feet, he pulled him across the table. “Now,” he growled, “am I going to get that late pass?” “No!” cried Moffat, wriggling for all he was worth. “No! Oh! Ah! Oh!” The First Former’s right hand was rising and falling on the seat of Moffat’s pants. Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! “Do I get my late pass?” demanded the big boy. “Yes, Burford,” gasped Moffat. “Don’t hit me again. You can have the pass.” “Good!” chuckled Burford. “I hope this’ll be a lesson to you. Understand that whenever I want a pass, I get one.” The pass was signed and handed over. Burford took his leave, and before sitting down again Moffat placed a thick cushion on his chair. Some small boys entered, one after the other, and demanded passes. They each paid over five shillings. Then two big fellows from the Third Form appeared. When Moffat demanded five shillings from each, they declared that they were broke. Moffat walked over to the window and looked down into the quadrangle. “There’s Burford down there,” he said softly. “If you two guys care to give Burford a scragging, I’ll let you have the late passes. But you’ve got to let me have proof that he’s been well and truly scragged.” The two Third Formers exchanged wondering glances. “All right,” they agreed. “We’ll scrag Burford.” Half an hour later, Burford came back across the quadrangle looking an absolute wreck. His clothes were torn and it looked as though he had been rolled in a patch of mud. Mr Spud saw him cross the quadrangle and later he saw the two Third Formers receive their passes from Moffat. The old master was triumphant. “To-morrow,” he chuckled, “I’ll bring Dr Ryman over here and let him see for himself how the school captain carries out his duties. I’m afraid he’s going to get a shock.” Mr Spud was still looking into the mirror when the door of Moffat’s study opened and the half-dozen prefects filed in, the last one locking the door behind him. “You wanted to see us, Bill?” demanded one of them. Moffat leaned forward. “Yes,” he snapped. “There are two people in this school who deserve a real walloping. Burford licked me this morning, so as soon as we can fix it we’ll beat him up like we beat up Ridgeley and the others. But the first person to deal with,” went on Moffat, “is that interfering old busybody, Spud. He hasn’t been to the Headmaster yet, so it’s up to us to scare him. We’ll beat him up to-night, and afterwards we’ll leave a note in his hand telling him he’ll get a bigger dose if he carries tales to Dr Ryman.” “It’s a bit risky tackling a man, isn’t it?” protested one prefect. “So far we’ve only tackled the chaps in the school.” “Bah!” snorted Moffat. “Old Spud will be easier to tackle than some of our big chaps. In any case, we’ll be masked, won’t we? Spud’s taking super with Dr Ryman to-night. We’ll waylay him as he crosses the quad. He probably means to tell Dr Ryman about our midnight feast during supper. Well, if we beat him up first of all, he’ll probably keep his mouth shut.” Mr Spud listened in while the beating up plans were arranged. Having switched off the television screen, he sat back in his chair. So Moffat, the captain of the school, was actually the ringleader of the boys who had been causing so much trouble in the school! He was the creator of the very trouble that a school captain had been appointed to put an end to! That evening Mr Spud sought out Morgan and had a long talk with him. “Get big fellows from the Fourth to help you,” he said. “I don’t want any boys from the higher Forms to take part in this.” Morgan was quite excited when Mr Spud left him. Later that evening Mr Spud made an excuse to get Dr Ryman over to the old buildings, where he kept the head in conversation until it was nearly supper time. “The meal will be ready,” said Dr Ryman at last. “We’d better be leaving.” Mr Spud accompanied him to the front door of the old buildings, and then pretended to have forgotten something. “You go ahead,” he said, “I’ll be right after you.” It was dark in the quadrangle, and Dr Ryman was about the same height as Mr Spud. Moreover, it was cold, and so he was wearing a cloak. Thus, Moffat and his pals couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Mr Spud was crossing the quadrangle. As he came round an angle of the wall they fell upon him. His legs were kicked from under him, and then the school skipper and the prefects piled in for all they were worth. It would have gone badly with Dr Ryman if Mr Spud had not come racing up. “Stop!” he thundered. “What is the meaning of this?” Moffat and the others leapt to their feet, and turned to flee. But from all sides hefty fellows came running, and the captain and prefects were collared. When he came to his feet, Dr Ryman was choking with rage. “Take them to my study!” he ordered. “We’ll unmask them there.” To the study the attackers were dragged by their captors. Those captors, of course, were Morgan and other big fellows from the Fourth Form. In Dr Ryman’s study the masks were ripped off. Naturally, Moffat broke down and confessed. “The big fellows are always pitching into us,” said Moffat. “Some of them have a spite against us because we’re in the top Form. We formed this gang only to protect ourselves, and we didn’t intend to attack you, sir. We thought we were attacking Mr Spud.” “Why should you attack Mr Spud?” Moffat had no answer to that. It was supplied by Mr Spud himself. He explained about the boys who had been to the race meeting, the midnight feast and the things he had seen happen in Moffat’s study that day. He didn’t explain that he had deliberately arranged for Dr Ryman to be attacked by them. “Well,” snapped Dr Ryman at last, “one thing is obvious. You boys can no longer hold authority in the school. You will go to your dormitories now, and to-morrow I will decide upon your punishment.” The Fourth Formers were thanked for the part they had played, and at last Dr Ryman and Mr Spud were left alone. “You see,” said Mr Spud, “there’s something to be said for Moffat’s point of view. Big fellows of eighteen who spend their school life in the First Form are bound to be jealous of small boys who are placed in the Sixth Form immediately. “What we want,” he went on quickly, “is a school skipper and prefects drawn from the bigger boys in the school. Now there’s not a more decent fellow in the place than Morgan, who was elected by vote. If you allow Morgan to become captain and allow him to appoint fellows of his own age as prefects, you’ll find that bullying in the school will cease. Big fellows in the First Form won’t have such a grudge against the youngsters in the Sixth, because they’ll know there’s always a chance of being made a prefect or becoming school captain. In fairness to me, I think you should give my original scheme a trial with Morgan as captain. If not, I’m very much afraid the trouble in the school’s going to continue.” Mr Spud won his point, for next morning a notice was placed on the board declaring that Morgan was now school captain. Morgan chose six prefects to help him, and, acting on Mr Spud’s advice, he took a big fellow from each of the Forms in the school. A month went by, and already things at Bankfield had improved. “Your idea seems to be working,” Dr Ryman admitted to Mr Spud. “I’ve decided that Morgan shall continue as captain indefinitely.” And Mr Spud was satisfied. That night he added a name to the list of Bankfield captains. The name was “Peter Morgan.”
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2010