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The School with 3 Fourth Forms



Tubby Ryan dumped his suitcase in study 3, and then crossed to the window. He stood gazing out over the large quadrangle, with Jim Stacey, his pal, by his side. Tubby grinned.


“Well,” he said, “here we are back to the good old school. I’m looking forward to high old times this term.” “There’ll be high old times all right,” commented Jim Stacey. “We’ve got to show this school that the Home House is the only house that matters.” Red Circle School was rather an unusual school. Form the window of Study 3 it was possible to see all the school buildings, which were built in a circle round the quad. The buildings were of red sandstone, and so the name Red Circle School was easily explained. There was another strange thing about the school. Boys came to it from all parts of the British Empire and from America. For this reason the junior boys were divided into three sections, according to their place of birth. Tubby Ryan was captain of the Home House. The Home House faced the main school building, and all its inmates were British boys. The building to the east of the Home House was the Trans-Atlantic House, and here gathered all the American and Canadian juniors. The building to the west was the Colonial House, and here were the boys from all other parts of the British Empire.

It goes without saying that the rivalry between the three houses was intense. Jim Stacey suddenly frowned. “The three houses are due to get new masters this term,” he said. “I wonder which master they’ll dump on us?” Tubby scratched his head. “I’d forgotten that,” he said. “It’ll be a bit of a snag if we get that rotter, Smuggy, planted on us.” “That’s what I’m worried about,” said Jim. “I’ve no use for Smuggy. He’s the worst-tempered beak in the school. He’s always snooping and spying round corners, and I’m positive the only fun he ever gets out of life is hauling some poor kid over the coals and wading into him with a cane.” Tubby Ryan nodded.

Complete story of: Red Circle School

Japers of the Red Circle

Taken from The Hotspur #1

September 2nd 1933

“Besides Smuggy, there’s Dixie Dale and old Wagstaff,” he said. “Dale’s a sport, and we’ll be lucky if he’s appointed to Home House. It won’t be too bad if we get old Waggy. Waggy’s a stern old-fashioned beast, but he’s a very fair beast, and he happens to be in charge of.” He turned away from the window. “In any case,” he said, I don’t suppose we’ll have any say in the choice of masters, so there’s no need to start worrying about it until we know who’s actually been appointed. Let’s take a turn round the quad and see if the hams from the other houses have turned up.” Entering the quad, the two English boys moved in the direction of the Trans-Atlantic House. In front of this House was a plot of grass, and seated upon it were quite a number of fellows. Tubby blinked at the sight. “What on earth’s happened to the Yank House crowd?” he exclaimed. For all the boys from the Trans-Atlantic House seemed to be studying bulky, very learned-looking volumes. Tubby and Jim strolled up to the grass plot. “Hi, Cyrus,” called out Tubby, “what’s the story your reading?” Cyrus Judd, the captain of the Trans-Atlantic House, came to his feet. He looked indignantly at Tubby. “Say, you fresh guy,” he snapped, “can that talk about stories. Can’t you see I’m busy with a school book?” A big fellow alongside him looked up from the book in his hands. This was Rawlinson, Cyrus Judd’s Canadian chum. “Sure,” he said, “we’ve got no time for novels. We’ve been away on holiday a long time, and we’re just making sure that we know our school work for to-morrow.” Tubby and Jim blinked. They’d always considered the Yank House rather a ragtime lot. It was simply amazing that they should be swotting up school books when there was no need to do so. Cyrus saw a tall figure coming towards them. “Oh, yes,” he went on, “in this House we’re keen on school work. We don’t spend all our time on the playing fields like some of you guys in the other Houses. You see, we’re smart enough to realise that there’s a time for work and a time for play. We’ve had a darn long time for play during the holidays, so now we’re settling down and getting ready for a term’s hard work.” “Quite right, too, Judd,” commented a voice, and Mr Wagstaff, one of the masters strolled by. “I’m glad to see that you Trans-Atlantic boys realise the real purpose of the school. I’m sure you must be an example to all the other Houses.” Having got that off his chest Mr Wagstaff walked away.


With a smirk, Cyrus Judd dropped back on the grass, and prepared to get interested in his book again. Tubby noticed, however, that he was holding the book upside down. “You gosh-darned slackers had better beat it,” Cyrus said. “You’re interrupting our studies.”

Tubby took Jim’s arm. “Let’s get away,” he said. “I shall feel ill if I stay here much longer.” They walked away. “What’s it mean?” demanded Jim then. Tubby frowned. “Can’t you see?” he said. “Cyrus is scared stiff that Smugg will be appointed to the Trans-Atlantic House. He knows that the headmaster will probably appoint Smugg to the house where discipline is weakest. Cyrus and his gang are only pretending to swot. They’re trying to throw dust in the headmaster’s eyes, so that he’ll appoint Smugg to one of the other houses. Let’s go over and see what the Conk House is doing.” They walked across the quad to the Colonial House whose inmates were generally known as the “Conks.” Outside the Colonial House quite a number of fellows were strolling about in pairs. Tubby and Jim blinked at them. There was something queer about the Colonials. “My gosh!” murmured Tubby. “Look! They’re all dressed in their Sunday best, they’re all wearing clean collars, and they’ve all got their hair parted nicely. Fancy Kit Delaney and his crowd walking about like tailor’s dummies.” He approached a long and bony youth, who was accompanied by a dark-faced Hindoo. “Hi Kit,” called out Tubby, “did you have a good holiday?” Kit Delaney, the Australian captain of the Colonial House, glared at Tubby. “You’re in Home House now, Ryan,” he snapped. “There’s no need to shout. We don’t like quietness of the school to be disturbed.” Tubby nearly swallowed his tonsils. For it was a well-known fact that Kit Delaney possessed the loudest voice in the whole of the school. Punja Singh, Kit Delaney’s chum, also looked severe. “My friends,” he said, “if you wish to shout you should proceed to the playing fields. That is the place for shouting. One should speak with hushed voices in this old quadrangle.” “Quite right, Punja Singh,” said a voice, and once again Mr Wagstaff came strolling up. “I’m glad to find you so sensitive to atmosphere.” And with a beaming smile Mr Wagstaff passed by. Tubby looked at Kit Delaney. “You long scarecrow,” he cried. “You may be able to pull old Waggy’s leg, but you can’t pull mine. Fancy a guy like you talking about disturbing the quietness. Why, every time you open your mouth somebody’s window goes bust.” Kit Delaney looked as though he were going to jump forward. With a great effort of will-power he restrained himself. “Ryan,” he said. “I refuse to quarrel with you in the quadrangle. Good-afternoon.” Tubby swallowed. He grabbed Jim’s arm “Here,” he said, “let’s get back to our house quickly.” Back in study 3 in the Home House, Tubby looked at Jim. “Don’t you see the wheeze?” he cried. “Kit Delaney is playing the same sort of game as Cyrus Judd. They’re trying to convince the masters that they’re nice, quiet little boys, and that butter won’t melt in their mouths. They seem to have got away with it too. That means that when the masters are appointed to the various houses, we shall be landed with Smuggy.” He clenched his fists. “Well,” he snapped, “you can take it from me that we’re not going to be tricked into having Smuggy thrust upon us. Life won’t be worth living with Smuggy in this house, so we’ve got to do something about it, and do it quickly.” “But what can we do?” demanded Jim. “You leave it to me,” snapped Tubby. “I’ll think of something. I—” At that moment came a tremendous roar from the quadrangle. It was a roar of anger which fairly made the window panes rattle. Both boys jumped to the window. And there below them in the quad a figure in cap and gown was dancing about like a dervish. His face was black with anger, and he was shaking both his fists in the direction of Home House. “My word!” gasped Tubby. “It’s old Smuggy himself. Something has happened.” Something had happened!


Now a few minutes before a tall, serious-looking boy had entered Study Number 5 in Home House. This was Horace Glossup, the school naturalist. Horace had greeted his study pal, Bulgy Todd, and then dumped his suitcase on the table and proceeded to open it.

“I’ve had a wonderful holiday,” he said. “I’ve spent quite a lot of the time fishing. You’ll scarcely believe it, my dear Todd, but I actually succeeded in catching a salmon. I’ve brought it with me. “Eh?” said Bulgy in alarm. “Oh yes,” said Horace. “it’s quite a large-sized salmon. It’s my intention to hang it in the place of honour over the mantelpiece.” Bulgy wasn’t particularly quick in the uptake, but he jumped at this quick enough. “But the thing will smell,” he objected. Horace beamed upon him. “How foolish of you, my dear Todd,” he said. “I have had the salmon stuffed, in fact, I did the job myself, and I’m very proud of it. Here it is. He proceeded to unpack a brown paper parcel. Then he stood back. “What do you think of it, my dear Todd?” he asked. Bulgy took a step forward, and peered at the salmon. Then, with a gasp, he was reaching for his handkerchief. That salmon smelt, and smelt badly. It might have been a stuffed salmon, but Horace had evidently made a very poor job of the stuffing. “Ouch!” gasped Bulgy. “You can’s keep that thing here. It’ll poison us all.” Horace sniffed. “The smell is not so very strong, my dear Todd,” he said. “I’m sure we shall get used to it, and—” “Get used to it?” hooted Bulgy. I’m not sitting down alongside a smell like that horrible object in this study. Here—let me get at it.” Before Horace could realise his intention, Bulgy had seized the offending salmon by the tail and jumped to the open window. With a mighty sweep of his arm he sent that salmon hurtling out into the quad. Whereupon Mr Smugg, known as Smuggy, stepped into the picture. The clammy weight of the salmon hit Mr Smugg right on his stern dial, knocked him off his legs, and then draped itself round his neck. It was Mr Smugg’s roar as he went down which brought Tubby Ryan and Jim Stacey jumping to the window of their study. Mr Smugg got free of the salmon, and looked at it for a second in horror. Then he turned and looked in the direction from whence the salmon had come. And there, gazing down at him, he saw the serious visage of Horace Glossup. It was then that Mr Smugg shook both fists in the air. Then, gathering his gown around him, he went into the Home House like a crack sprinter just getting off the mark. Having thrown the salmon through the window, Bulgy had instantly walked out of the study. “I’ve got to wash my hands,” he snapped.

And so, when Mr Smugg swept into the study, he found Horace alone. “Dreadful boy!” screamed Mr Smugg. “That horrible fish! It came from this study?” “Y-y-es, sir,” bleated Horace. “But— but—” “Enough!” shrieked Mr Smugg. “Not another word! Come here.” Horace had no choice about the matter. For Mr Smugg grabbed him by the coat collar and lugged him across the study table. From underneath his gown he produced a stout cane. “Never have I been so insulted in the whole of my life,” he yelled. Up went the cane. Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Horace squirmed and yelled. “I didn’t!” he shrieked. “It wasn’t me! You—you’re—” “Silence!” shrieked Mr Smugg. “Not a word!” “Whack! Whack! Whack! Bulgy Todd forced his way through the fellows who were now gathered in the corridor. He fairly jumped into the study. “Pardon me, sir!” he gasped, “but—” “Silence!” raved Mr Smugg. “If you speak again I shall treat you most severely.” Whack! Whack! Whack! He slung Horace aside then. Then he turned. “You wish to speak to me, Todd?” he said. Bulgy gulped. “Yes, sir,” he said. “I wanted to tell you it wasn’t Glossup who threw the salmon out of the window. It was I. I didn’t know you were in the quad, sir.” “What?” Mr Smugg’s voice was almost a shriek. He reached forward. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” he cried. “How dare you stand by and allow me to punish Glossup. If you’d only spoken a word—” “But I tried to, sir,” interrupted Bulgy. “I—” “I never take excuses,” snapped Mr Smugg. “Bend over.” Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! And Bulgy went through it. Finally, in a state of great perspiration, Mr Smugg stood back. He glared at the boys in the doorway. “This house needs a firm hand,” he cried. “The discipline here is atrocious. Unless this house is taken in hand at once it will become absolutely unmanageable. I shall speak to the headmaster about the matter at once.” Gathering his gown about him, Mr Smugg strode away. Tubby Ryan and Jim Stacey who had witnessed the whole scene, blinked at one another. “That,” said Jim, “finishes it. The chances are a million to one Smuggy becomes our new house master. What a time we’re going to have!” Tubby Ryan bit his lip. “We’re going to do something about it,” he rapped. “We’ll call a meeting of the whole house immediately after tea, and we’ll have to think of some stunt of keeping Smuggy away from this house.” And so a meeting was called for after tea. Now, being the first day of the term, tea was taken by everybody in the main dining hall. Tubby and Jim sat next to Kit Delaney and Punja Singh. Kit and all the other Colonial chaps were still trying to appear perfect little gentlemen. But Kit condescended to tell Tubby something about his holiday. It appears that quite a number of the Colonial chaps had been camping up in the hills overlooking the school for the last fortnight. “The tents and blankets are coming back to the village to-night,” said Kit. “We’ve got to go down and collect them at seven o’clock.” It was this remark which gave Tubby an idea. Tea over, the mass meeting was held in the Common Room of the Home House. Tubby Ryan took the chair. He explained the position with regard to Mr Smugg. “Unless we do something, and do it pretty soon,” he said, “we’re going to be landed with Smuggy as our house master. You know what that means.” There was one general groan. “Well,” said Tubby, “we’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to do it quickly. I’ve got an idea which may do the trick. Pin your ears back and listen.” The Home boys accordingly pinned their ears back. Half an hour later all the details of Tubby’s stunt had been arranged.


There was no prep that evening, as the day was the first of the term. But Tubby and Jim, happening to walk past the Trans-Atlantic House received a shock. All the Yank House boys could be seen seated at their open study window.

Their heads were all bent over books. “My gosh!” ejaculated Tubby. “They’re still keeping up the farce about being keen on their studies. They’re certainly trying to make sure that they don’t get landed with Smuggy.” He chuckled. “They’re making the thing easy for us,” he said. “We’ll have nothing to fear if they stay in their studies all the evening.” It seemed that the Conk boys had taken a leaf out of the book of the Yanks, for, strolling by the Colonial House, Tubby and Jim saw that the Conks were also seated at their open windows, and that they also appeared to be deep in their school books. It must have seemed that the “Homers” were fairly asking for it. For, instead of proceeding to their studies and, pretending to be good little boys, Tubby led the whole house down to a corner of the quad. This corner could easily be seen from both the Trans-Atlantic and the Colonial Houses. In this corner Tubby fixed up a scratch footer game. The Home House boys seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, for their shouts went echoing and re-echoing across the quadrangle. In the Trans-Atlantic House Cyrus Judd grinned at his pal, Rawlinson. “Say, bo,” he said, “it’s a dreadful bore having to stay here and pretend to mug up books. It’s going to do the trick, however. I should say that Smugg is already booked for the Home House.” “You’ve said it,” grinned Rawlinson. And in the Colonial House Kit Delaney looked across to the playing fields and grinned at Punja Singh. “I never thought much of Tubby Ryan and those other idiots in the Home House,” he said. “They can’t be very quick in the uptake, or they’d be wise to the stunt we’re playing. They’ll get a shock when they find that Smuggy has been appointed their house master to-morrow.” Punja Singh showed his teeth in a grin. “The surprise will be truly wonderful my friend,” he said. As a matter of fact, the fellows in the other two houses cast longing eyes at that game of football. Most of them would have given anything to have flung down their books and to have joined in the game. But they had a very wholesome fear of Mr Smugg. It was worth a day of self-denial in order to avoid being landed with him. But Tubby Ryan, Jim Stacey, Bulgy Todd and half a dozen other fellows didn’t stay on the playing field the whole of the time. They slipped away one at a time, and met at the back of Trans-Atlantic House. Tubby pointed to a bathroom window. “That’s how we get in,” he said. “The catch is broken, and it’s never been repaired, come on.” And so was seen the strange sight of Tubby Ryan and half a dozen Homers clambering up to a bathroom window at the back of Yank House. Entering the House they made their way to the Fourth Form dormitory. They saw nobody on the way. Inside the dormitory they became very busy. As a matter of fact they stripped every bed in the dormitory, and rolling the bedclothes into large bundles, carted them away. Two of the party acted as sentries at each end of the corridor. Now at the bottom of the staircase was a huge cupboard. This was used for lumber. It was into this cupboard that all the bedclothes were hidden. When the last bundle had gone inside Tubby closed the door, locked it, and dropped the key into his pocket. “One last thing to do now,” he said, “and then we can beat it.” Going back to the dormitory, he suspended a sheet of cardboard over the head of Cyrus Judd’s bed. Then once again by way of the bathroom window the Homers left the Yank House. As they reached the playing fields Tubby pointed towards the school gates. “Look,” he cried. “There they go now.” Half a dozen fellows were walking across the road in the direction of the Colonial House. It was Kit Delaney and Co. On their shoulders were great bundles. Cyrus Judd and Rawlinson, happening to glance out of the window of their study, saw the procession enter the Colonial House. They saw the large bundles that were being carried inside. “I wonder what they’ve got there?” queried Cyrus. “Goodness knows.” Said Rawlinson. “They look like blankets to me.” The bundles were the camping equipment the Conks had used on their holiday. Half an hour later the game of football finished, and Tubby Ryan and the rest of the Homers returned to their House. They made a great deal of noise as they passed the other two Houses. The Home House was certainly to most rowdy House in the Red Circle School that evening. Both the Colonial and Yank Houses were wrapped in mantles of silence. But loud laughter and much talking came all the time from Home House. At nine o’clock a large bell sounded from the main school. This was the signal for all junior boys to make their way to the dormitories. Tubby Ryan and Co. went up at once. Instead of proceeding to undress, however, they lined up at the windows. “Now,” said Tubby, “we shall see what we shall see.”


When the bedtime bell went, Cyrus Judd heaved a sigh of relief, and tossed the book he had been pretending to read across the room. “Well,” he said, “thank goodness for bedtime. It’ll be a treat being able to return to normal to-morrow.”


And so Cyrus Judd led the way up to the dormitory. He opened the door and walked inside. He was halfway to his bed before he realised that something was wrong. “What the blue snakes—” he gasped then. There came similar gasps from fellows behind him. They gaped at the double row of beds. For each bed had been stripped bare! Cyrus Judd rubbed a hand over his eyes. “What on earth—” he gasped. “Somebody’s put one over on us.” He caught sight of the sheet of cardboard hanging from the head of his bed. He fairly jumped at it. On it, in roughly-printed capital letters, was the following: “WHO IS COCK HOUSE NOW?” Cyrus Judd grabbed the cardboard. “Any of you recognise the writing?” he snapped. “I do,” snapped Rawlinson. “D’you notice how all the letters slope slightly backwards? Well, whenever Kit Delaney puts up a notice I’ve always seen that his handwriting slopes backwards a little. Delaney must have put that notice up.” Cyrus slapped one fist into the other. “That’s it!” he cried. “Delaney of course! And, my gosh!—why didn’t I tumble to it before?” He turned on Rawlinson. “Why,” he cried, “didn’t we see them carrying bundles into their house? You said at the time they were blankets. They must have broken into the house when we were all seated in our studies. Of all the gosh darned—” He spluttered for a few minutes. “But why should they play a stunt like this?” demanded Rawlinson. “Why,” yelled Cyrus, his face working strangely, “why—because they want to get us into trouble, of course. They know that we’ve been lying low all day, and they’ve been doing the same thing. They’ve pinched the blankets because they know that we’ll get into trouble as soon as a beak comes round to put the lights out. We shall have to explain where the bedclothes have gone to, and we won’t be able to do that without sneaking. That means there’ll be a chance of our being landed with Smuggy after all. But not if I know it.” He strode to the door. “Where are you going?” demanded Rawlinson. “I’ll tell the cock-eyed world where I’m going,” yelled Cyrus. “I’m going across to the Conk House to get our bedclothes back. Who’s coming?” It appeared they all were. And so the watchers in the Home House dormitory saw a line of boys dash out of the door of the Yank House, streak across the quadrangle, and dive into the still open door of Colonial House. Immediately things began to happen. The silence of the school was rudely disturbed. From the Colonial House came a tremendous shouting and yelling. Now and again the shouting and yelling was interrupted by crashing sounds. In the Home House dormitory fellows hugged one another. “My word!” they cried. “What a shemozzle! The Jape’s working out perfectly.” Tubby Ryan frowned. “I guess some of us will have to miss the fun,” he said. “If we’re to complete the job we’ve got to start immediately. Come on, you fellows!” Half a dozen fellows followed him out of the dormitory. They made their way to the back of the deserted Yank House. Once again they entered by means of the bathroom window. Going to the cupboard underneath the stairs, Tubby unlocked the door. Then as quickly as they could they hauled out the bedclothes, and returned them to the beds in the dormitory. Meantime things were still happening round about the Colonial House. The uproar there was now appalling. It could be heard all over the school. From all sides fellows came running. The seniors came across in a body, and amongst them many of the masters. Then out of the Colonial House a confused mass of boys came tumbling. It seemed that Cyrus Judd and his crowd were being thrown out, but they were fighting every inch of the way. Then a booming voice suddenly overtopped everything else. Mr Smugg had arrived upon the scene. “This is disgraceful!” he cried. “We must have law and order. Silence! Listen to me! Silence!” A figure suddenly hurled itself full at Mr Smugg. He collared the master round the neck, and both went down in a heap. They rolled over and over along the gravel, and the Homers watching from their dormitory, saw that Mr Smugg’s attacker was using his fists for all he was worth. “My hat,” breathed a voice, “it’s Rawlinson. He must have become absolutely fighting mad. He can’t know that it’s old Smuggy he’s fighting with. My hat! What a shock he’s going to get.” It seemed that Rawlinson suddenly woke up to the fact, however. For letting out a startled yell he suddenly bounded to his feet and went streaking away. Masters were everywhere now, exerting both their authority and their canes. They managed to separate the two Houses. It was Mr Smugg, looking tremendously disheveled, who lined them up. “I will deal with this matter,” he rapped. Mr Smugg’s loud voice came easily to the ears of the Homers in their dormitory. “We know nothing about their bedclothes,” they could hear Delaney cry. “Silence!” roared Mr Smugg. He turned to Cyrus Judd. “Judd,” he snapped. “I don’t understand your statement at all. We will return to the Trans-Atlantic House, and I will see for myself. The Colonial boys will return indoors at once. Kit Delaney and Co. disappeared, and the Homers watched Mr Smugg march Cyrus Judd and his crowd across the quad. “Come on,” whispered Tubby Ryan. “We may be able to hear old Smuggy’s voice if we stand outside the Yank House.” They grouped themselves in the darkness of the quad. As it happened, Mr Smugg’s voice came to them quite clearly. “I will not listen to any of your explanations,” he said. “You go across to the Colonial House—you cause a tremendous disturbance, and then you tell me that you entered the Colonial House to look for your blankets. I come back to this house, and I find all your beds nicely made, with no evidence of the bedclothes having been touched at all. It seems to me that you have only tried to make an excuse!” There was a pause of a second or two. Then Mr Smugg’s voice rose again sharper than ever. “I will not listen,” he hooted. “You will return to your beds. In the morning I will make another investigation into this matter.” Tubby Ryan turned to his pals. “We’d better beat it,” he said. “I think we’ve worked the trick.”

Tubby Ryan and Co. got up reluctantly when rising bell went next morning. Strange sounds in the quadrangle, however, attracted them to the window. A strange sight met their eyes. For there, lined up in the quad, was the whole of the Yank House. They were all dressed and appeared to have been in the quad quite a time. Marching up and down in front of them was Mr Smugg. Tubby Ryan and Jim Stacey gasped. “Look,” gasped Tubby. “Look at Smuggy’s black eye! What a beauty!” “I have specially asked the head to put me in charge of this House,” they heard Mr Smugg say. “After the disgraceful noise last night, it is clear that this house needs a firm hand—and I’m going to see that you get it.” “Hear that?” gasped Tubby. “Hear what he said? Old Smuggy must have been actually appointed to the Yank House. My word—no wonder Cyrus is looking so glum.” There came a loud chortle from the Home House boys. When they left the dormitory that morning the Homers discovered that Mr Wagstaff had been appointed their house master and that young Mr Dale had been appointed to the Colonial House. “Well,” said Tubby, “old Wagstaff’s quite a decent old bird. We shan’t do too badly under him.” As a matter of fact, the Homers were very pleased with themselves. They considered they had started the term well.

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2005