There was a carefully measured pause, and then Lancelot was made vividly aware of what a good cane can be made to do in really efficient hands. At the second cut he projected himself hurriedly off the chair.
“Now I’ve lost count,” said Comus; “we shall have to begin all over again. Kindly get back into the same position. If you get down again before I’ve finished Rutley will hold you over and you’ll get a dozen.”
Lancelot got back on to the chair, and was re-arranged to the taste of his executioner. He stayed there somehow or other while Comus made eight accurate and agonisingly effective shots at the chalk line.
“By the way,” he said to his gasping and gulping victim when the infliction was over, “you said Chetrof, didn’t you? I believe I’ve been asked to be kind to you. As a beginning you can clean out my study this afternoon. Be awfully careful how you dust the old china. If you break any don’t come and tell me but just go and drown yourself somewhere; it will save you from a worse fate.”
“I don’t know where your study is,” said Lancelot between his chokes.
“You’d better find it or I shall have to beat you, really hard this time. Here, you’d better keep this chalk in your pocket, it’s sure to come in handy later on. Don’t stop to thank me for all I’ve done, it only embarrasses me.”
As Comus hadn’t got a study Lancelot spent a feverish half-hour in looking for it, incidentally missing another footer practice.
“Everything is very jolly here,” wrote Lancelot to his sister Emmeline. “The prefects can give you an awful hot time if they like, but most of them are rather decent. Some are Beasts. Bassington is a prefect though only a junior one. He is the Limit as Beasts go. At least I think so.”
Schoolboy reticence went no further, but Emmeline filled in the gaps for herself with the lavish splendour of feminine imagination. Francesca’s bridge went crashing into the abyss.
On the evening of a certain November day, two years after the events heretofore chronicled, Francesca Bassington steered her way through the crowd that filled the rooms of her friend Serena Golackly, bestowing nods of vague recognition as she went, but with eyes that were obviously intent on focussing one particular figure. Parliament had pulled its energies together for an Autumn Session, and both political Parties were fairly well represented in the throng. Serena had a harmless way of inviting a number of more or less public men and women to her house, and hoping that if you left them together long enough they would constitute a salon. In pursuance of the same instinct she planted the flower borders at her week-end cottage retreat in Surrey with a large mixture of bulbs, and called the result a Dutch garden. Unfortunately, though you may bring brilliant talkers into your home, you cannot always make them talk brilliantly,